Two Long Island charter schools Monday won state permission to expand enrollments by 60 percent or more, in a decision delayed for a month by bad weather.
The state’s Board of Regents, racing Monday to finish its monthly business ahead of a forecast snowstorm, approved expansions of Evergreen Charter School in Hempstead and Riverhead Charter School in Calverton.
Regents’ action had been scheduled at the board’s February meeting, but it was canceled due to an earlier storm. Such meetings usually are held in Albany.
A Regents committee vote Monday morning of 15 members in favor, one abstaining and one absent was followed by full board approval in the afternoon. The votes covered a total of 13 charter schools statewide, including the two on the Island, and the abstention was unrelated to either of the latter.
Evergreen School, which enrolls about 375 students in grades K-6, plans to build enrollment to 600 students, while adding grades seven and eight. Riverhead School, with about 414 students, intends to grow to 700 students, while remaining within its current grade K-8 configuration.
Both schools also obtained five-year extensions of their state operating charters through the Regents’ latest decision.
Charter-school advocates who had anxiously awaited state action after February’s postponement, hailed the Regents’ decision Monday.
“We were actually really on pins and needles, waiting to see what happened,” said Ray Ankrum, executive director and principal of the Riverhead Charter School, established in 2001. “We’re excited.”
Gil Bernardino, founder and board chairman of the Evergreen School, established in 2009, hailed the Regents’ approval as a boost for students, many of whom are children of immigrants from Central and South America. The school currently has more than 300 students on a waiting list for admission, Bernardino said.
“We are very grateful to all supporters, and very, very happy, especially for the students and their families,’ Bernardino added. “It’s a tremendous, wonderful decision for the Village of Hempstead and everyone else.”
Bernardino also serves as executive director of Circulo de la Hispanidad, a nonprofit social-services agency with centers in Hempstead and Long Beach.
Charter schools, under state law, are tuition-free, publicly funded and run by boards independent of traditional school districts. Charter schools obtain revenues from those districts, depending on the numbers of students they attract.
The Evergreen and Riverhead schools have made academic progress in recent years while serving disadvantaged youngsters, the State Education Department reported.
At Evergreen, 54 percent of students scored at the proficient level or higher on state tests last year — well above the average both for students statewide and for those enrolled in traditional public schools locally. Sixty-nine percent of Evergreen’s students are considered economically disadvantaged.
At the Riverhead school, 33 percent of students scored proficient or better last year. Performance was also higher than in schools statewide and in local traditional schools. Seventy-four percent of Riverhead Charter’s students are economically disadvantaged.