Education

Riverhead Charter School eyes expansion as high school program grows

Riverhead Charter School, which added ninth grade last fall, will be adding 10th grade this fall, according to Superintendent Ray Ankrum. 

With the additional grade, the school’s enrollment, which is dictated by its charter, will increase from 692 for 2020-21 to 750 for the current year. The Charter School plans to continue expanding, adding 11th grade in 2022-23 and 12th grade in 2023-24. 

In the meantime, the Charter School will be leasing and converting a building at 5117 Sound Ave. in Northville for eventual use as a school. Officials had no estimate for how long that work would take.

“We are busting through the seams with our enrollment,” Mr. Ankrum said. “The Sound Avenue building will serve as a temporary solution while we work on plans to build a high school in the Town of Riverhead.”

The school currently occupies two buildings on Route 25 in Calverton, including the Calverton Schoolhouse, which was built in 1928. 

“We will use the Sound Avenue site for the high school until the high school is built,” Mr. Ankrum said. “After the high school is built, we will more than likely use it as a middle school campus.”

Town approvals will be needed to use the Sound Avenue building as a school, officials said. 

The Sound Avenue building sits across from Palmer Vineyards and once housed East End Christian Academy. It was later proposed for development as a brewery — a plan that was rejected. 

The Sound Avenue building is a 10-year lease and is a temporary solution, Mr. Ankrum said. 

“It could eventually turn into a middle school campus, but we have not made any definite plans for it,” he said. “It’s just serving as a bridge until we construct our high school. We needed space to house our students, and this made the most sense for us right now.”

The high school building will be a brand-new building, he said, adding, “We are in the process of finding and cementing land that fits the zoning variance to build in the Town of Riverhead.”

Mr. Ankrum said the Charter School will be providing in-person instruction this year, “while following he guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control, the New York State Education Department and the Suffolk County Department of Health.” 

The Charter School has postponed having sports for the time being but still plans some activities.

“The safety of our students and staff are one of our top priorities,” Mr. Ankrum said. “Due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus, we at Riverhead Charter School felt it would be in the best interest of our students and staff to postpone our fall, winter and spring sports season and run an in-house after-school club sports program.”

That program will include four sports — cross country, volleyball, basketball and soccer — spread out over three seasons. 

Riverhead Charter School was established more than 20 years ago. Charter schools are funded based on a per-pupil cost paid by each student’s home district. The bulk of Riverhead Charter School’s students come from the Riverhead, William Floyd and Longwood school districts.