By Jonathan Pulla and Darwin Yanes
A board meeting on Feb. 8 will announce Riverhead Charter School’s plans to add grades 11 and 12, in order to fully become a K12 institution.
To be implemented, the proposal will have to be approved by the Board of Regents during its meetings on March 12 and 13. NY State Office of Charter Schools will recommend to the Board of Regents about the expansions of grades 9-12 says Raymond Ankrum, the Executive Director and Principal of the Riverhead Charter School. The Board of Regents will vote on the expansion in March 12 and 13.
If the recommendation is approved, Riverhead Charter School would follow the footsteps of The Academy Charter School in Nassau County. Currently the Riverhead Charter School is the only of its kind on Suffolk County.
“The more that there are [Charter Schools], the more choices parents have of where to send their children,” Deana Fortunato, the Interim Assistant Principal, said. Fortunato is hopeful that others will catch on to the Charter school system because it offers a different choice for students and parents.
The first class of the new K12 is expected to graduate in 2024, Ankrum said via email. The expansion is in its early stages but with the approval of grades 11 and 12 the school will meet the achievement performance set by the Board of Regents. The charter school is above average on its English Language Arts tests scores and just 1% below the national math average.
In 2015, the school received a new building to accommodate students of eighth grade and during the last month it was granted the approval for grades 9 and 10. The grades will be incorporated in 2021 and 2022 respectively and could increase the number of students to 787. The expansion progress is attributed to the school’s attempt to set high expectations from its students, Ankrum said.
“The expansion would give the students a chance to continue their education in the school,” Laura Arcuri, the Assistant Principal of the Riverhead Charter Middle School, said. Traditionally, students are forced to find a different school after the culmination of the eighth grade.
“[Students] tend to go either to a private school and continue on that path, or go back to their district,” Arcuri said. The school is formed mainly by students of Riverhead, Longwood and William Floyd School Districts.
Some parents of students in the district are hopeful the transitions from 8th grade to 9th grade will be less stressful with the expansion.
“Taking a kid from middle school to high school is a huge transition. Now you’re taking a kid from basically a private school setting into a public school setting is doubly as hard,” James Foster, a parent of three children attending the Riverhead Charter School said.
The state of the Riverhead School District has added some momentum to the rise of the Charter School. As of 2016 the public school district has been put on a focus group due to low test scores in ELA and math tests. Focus districts are assigned to institutions because of their low performance and lack of progress in ELA and math, and low graduation rates. Almost every school in the Riverhead District share the focus status except for Aquebogue Elementary School where parents are allowed, by the district, to transfer their kids.
Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez of the Riverhead School District was reached for comment, but the Media Relations team declined participation on the story.
“There were several dozen parents that chose to send their kids to Aquebogue so I imagine that some parents choose the charter school over Riverhead because of the focus district,” Robert Fisher, a board member of the Riverhead School District said.Fisher says the district was affected by the focus group status. He adds that the district is putting a lot of work in order to lose the focus status.
In 2016 alone, 43 students transferred to Aquebogue.
The Board of Regents meeting, which is open to the public, will take place at the State Education Department in Albany.