By Tess Malijenovsky
Last week federal court Judge Sol Blatt Jr. ruled in favor of Riverview Charter School in their legal dispute with the Beaufort County School District and Board of Education concerning current and future student enrollment at the school.
In a press release sent earlier this week, the school district wrote that Riverview sued the district because “Riverview claimed to be entitled to grow to 684 students” and wouldn’t accept the school district’s compromise of a 513 student enrollment cap. According the Riverview’s Director Alison Thomas, 684 is a reference to the school’s intentions for the number of K-8 students by the year 2019-2020.
Seeing as Riverview is still in its first five years of operation and that state regulations only allow five-year charter contracts at a time, the legal dispute was rather about the district wanting to limit student enrollment in the 2011-2012 school year.
Riverview wrote: “In Fall 2010, Dr. Jackie Rosswurm with BCSD told Riverview that the District would only fund 342 students [as opposed to the pre-approved 418 students] at the charter school for the 2011 school year and further asserted that if Riverview enrolled more than 342, she would recommend revocation of the school’s charter to the Board of Education.” Riverview filed a declaratory judgment in SC State Court, which was removed to federal court, delaying the 2011 school year resolution.
Judge Sol Blatt Jr. ruled to cap enrollment at 494 students for Riverview’s first five years. The school estimates to have 456 students in the upcoming 2012-2013 year, an increase of 114 students that will cost the district more than a million dollars, primarily of local taxpayer dollars.
“We hope that the addition of 114 students for next year will provide an opportunity for Riverview to do a better job of meeting the requirements of its charter and become more representative of the diverse community it serves,” said Board of Education Chairman Fred Washington, Jr.
Thomas agreed with Washington, testifying that “with 114 additional seats comes 114 additional opportunities to further the socioeconomic diversity of the student body.”
She also sympathizes with the taxpayers: “I’m certainly disappointed that we couldn’t reach an out-of-court agreement on the circumstances as again I continue to be acutely aware that all of the money that was spent on those legal proceedings were taxpayers’ dollars.”
The larger enrollment number is sure to appease parents who have shown demand for high quality public education. “We have not had one child tell us that they’re not coming back, which I think 100 percent retention speaks volumes about the quality of instruction that’s going on here,” said Thomas.
With more than 650 new student applications and every one of their current 342 students still enrolled, more than one thousand local students have made Riverview their choice in public education.
“We are certainly delighted,” said Thomas, “to have clarity as to the expectations and responsibilities of all parties involved as we look forward to the next 30 months regarding enrollment, and that we can look forward to serving the children, which is really what we’re all here to do.”
By Tess Malijenovsky