The Riverhead Charter School is purchasing acreage adjacent to the Riverhead Charter High School, background, for the construction of a new high school and athletic fields on Sound Avenue. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Riverhead Charter School is purchasing 71-acres of property on Sound Avenue in Northville, setting the stage for the construction of a new high school building and athletic fields, according to the school’s superintendent.

A new high school building, which is five to seven years away, will allow the charter school to accommodate more than 400 high school students — an increase over the current capacity of 130 students — according to charter school superintendent Raymond Ankrum. The charter school’s board on Nov. 30. authorized the land purchase for roughly $4.5 million using reserve funds, Ankrum said.

“Beyond just increased student capacity, this new space allows us to extend our current program and provide our students with more freedom to move and grow,” Ankrum wrote in an email in response to a reporter’s questions. “Moreover, we foresee the inclusion of sports fields in our new campus, a feature that we weren’t able to offer in the past due to space constraints. We believe that this addition will not only attract more students but also provide a well-rounded education experience for our current students.”

The parcels to be acquired by the school are adjacent to the charter school’s current high school at 5117 Sound Avenue, Ankrum said. The land is being purchased from Potato Acres LLC, Ankrum said. There are four parcels near the charter school building, located on the south side of Sound Avenue, owned by Potato Acres LLC totaling 70.5 acres, according to Suffolk County’s geographic information services system. The largest parcel is 52.2 acres and is listed as being used for “field crops” with acquired development rights. 

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The land is within the Agricultural Protection zoning use district, which allows educational institutions by special use permit of the Town Board. 

Ankrum said the charter school is currently examining building designs that range from 50,000 to 68,000 square feet. Ankrum said there is no price tag for the new project yet, but that the charter school intends to bond for building the new school.

“As we move forward with this exciting project, we would like to underscore our commitment to putting students first. We’ve made significant strides in ensuring our decisions align with this principle, especially in cases like this that directly impact our students and their families,” Ankrum wrote. “For instance, in the past, we’ve lost students due to our inability to offer competitive sports programs. With this new development, we are optimistic about turning the tide and creating an enriching and holistic educational environment.”

The Riverhead Charter School opened a high school campus at a renovated schoolhouse in Northville at the start of the 2022-23 school year. Last year the school’s charter was expanded to allow the school to add grades 11 and 12 and expand its enrollment to 1244 students — a nearly 400 student increase from its previous charter. Previously, students in grades nine and 10 shared the building with K-8 students at the charter school’s campus on Middle Country Road in Calverton.

MORE COVERAGE: Riverhead Charter School granted expansion to grade 12, with 46% increase in enrollment limit over next five school years

Ankrum said that the existing high school building, which is adjacent to the land being purchased but is not owned by the school, “has the potential to be repurposed as administrative space” once the new high school is constructed.

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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