A Riverhead Charter School sixth-grade classroom in 2015. File photo: Katie Blasl

Riverhead Charter School’s charter has been renewed and will allow the school to teach grades 11 and 12, and increase its maximum enrollment from 850 to 1244 students.

The expansion, which was renewed for a full five-year term by the New York State Board of Regents Monday, is the biggest expansion in the school’s 21-year history.

The addition of grades 11 and 12 allows students to do the whole of both their primary and secondary education at the school. This means students educated at the charter school won’t have their academic programing “interrupted” by having to leave the charter school, charter school Superintendent Raymond Ankrum said.

“Over the years we have lost students and families due to stakeholders having to transition back to their district schools,” Ankrum wrote in an email Wednesday. “Having a one-stop shop to educate our students is going to be a game changer for families that want a world class education for their scholars.”

The school will start offering 11th grade this coming year and 12th grade next year. The enrollment limit will increase from 850 to 947 in the 2022-23 school year, 947 to 1047 in the 2023-24 school year, 1047 to 1126 in the 2024-25 school year, 1126 to 1189 in the 2025-26 school year, and 1189 to 1244 in 2026-27 school year.

The Riverhead Board of Education held a public hearing on the expansion in October. Large crowds came out both for and against the expansion. The home school district of charter school students are required by law to pay per-pupil tuition to the charter school. The Riverhead Central School District will pay approximately $10.2 million for the estimated 553 students who will attend the charter school come September. Admissions to the charter school are decided by lottery.

Ankrum said the renewal of the charter was a “big relief” for the faculty and staff.

“Pundits that are anti school choice conveniently forget about the rigorous process that all charter schools in NY state undergo in order to prove they are worthy to continue servicing students,” Ankrum wrote. “As a Board of Regents charter school, we are held to the highest of standards. These types of standards should be how all schools are reviewed, in order to ensure a quality education for all students.”

Riverhead Charter School’s main campus is on Middle Country Road in Calverton. The charter school is also in the process of renovating a vacant former school house on Sound Avenue in Northville for high school classroom space. Ankrum said the building will hold 106 students, which is barely enough to cover the increased enrollment this coming school year and significantly less than the charter school would need over the charter’s renewal period. Ankrum said in an email Wednesday the charter school is in the process of acquiring an additional facility.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: alek@riverheadlocal.com