Riverhead Charter School was granted the biggest expansion in its history last week, allowing it to incorporate grades 11 and 12.
The school’s charter was renewed by the New York State Board of Regents for a full five-year term. The renewal included approval for an increase in maximum enrollment from 850 students to 1,244. At its founding in 2001, the school offered only grades K-4 but has grown over time, most recently adding grade 10 last fall.
The school’s enrollment will rise gradually each year from 2022-23 through 2026-27, when it is expected to reach the 1,244-student limit.
The charter school’s main campus is on Middle Country Road in Calverton. To accommodate all the anticipated incoming students, it is currently renovating a vacant former schoolhouse on Sound Avenue in Northville for high school classroom space, but Superintendent Raymond Ankrum said there’s more to come.
“Our Board of Trustees are working diligently to continue to acquire space to substantiate our growth,” he said. “While we aren’t able to comment on anything beyond the Sound Avenue location, we have big plans in store for our students and families.”
The Riverhead Board of Education held a public hearing on the charter school expansion in October, drawing crowds who spoke both for and against it.
“This is not a charter school vs. traditional public school argument,” Mr. Ankrum said. “We are here because parents want a choice in where they send their kids to school … It means parents have and should be allowed to express their agency on where they send their scholars to school without judgment,” he said.
Maria Cintron currently has one child finishing up fourth grade at the charter school and two others in lower grades. She has served for about three years as treasurer for the school’s board.
“I personally grew up in public school and so I have nothing against public school but I felt the needs of my children personally were met when we moved out here to Riverhead and Charter received us with open arms,” she said.
Ms. Cintron said she’s is very grateful to have had the option to send her kids there and is glad this expansion gives other parents the opportunity to have that same choice.
“I want parents to feel in our community that they have options for their child, that as far as their education, they have a say and they have options to choose where to put their child for their education,” she said.
As required by law, the home districts of charter school students pay per-pupil tuition to the school. Admission is determined by lottery.
Mr. Ankrum said in an email that “the expansion means the world” to the school’s students and families.
“For years they have been advocating for choice in where their scholars can be educated,” he said. “This expansion is an answer to many prayers.”
Mr. Ankrum said the community response to the news has been “amazing” and credits the Riverhead Town Board for its help.
He said the 21-year-old charter school’s first senior class will graduate in 2024.