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Parent group seeks to address overcrowding in school district

Stephanie Ranghelli, a Riverhead resident, questioned why proposed

Stephanie Ranghelli, a Riverhead resident, questioned why proposed revisions for Riverhead's town code on building and housing standards were not adopted sooner during a public hearing on the matter Oct. 16 at Riverhead Town Hall. Credit: Newsday/Jean-Paul Salamanca

A new civic group in Riverhead is seeking to lend a voice to parents worried about overcrowding in their school district and other residents concerned about issues that affect their town, organizers said.

Since it formed in mid-October, The Riverhead Town Association of Concerned Citizens, a non-politically affiliated civic group founded by parents of children in the Riverhead Central School District, has rapidly grown to nearly 500 members, said Stephanie Ranghelli, one of the group’s co-founders.

“We want to do this in a positive way,” said Ranghelli, a Riverhead resident who has three children in the district. “We want to make this group to foster community awareness, and to foster togetherness, because this is a diverse community that needs to learn to work together.”

Addressing overcrowding issues that affect their local schools, advocating for small class sizes, getting support for special-needs students and working toward transparency between residents and the school district’s administrators are among the goals the group has listed on its website, www.rtacc.org.

One of the group’s primary concerns has been overcrowding in local schools, which Ranghelli and other members have discussed with the Riverhead Board of Education and the town board during meetings for each board in the past month. Residents and group members are worried that the population of children in their schools “is increasing, while other neighboring districts have enrollment that is decreasing,” Ranghelli said.

“What we’re fighting against is ‘Who is attending our schools? Do they legally live and reside here?’ It doesn’t mean if they’re legal citizens. It has to do with whether or not the children within our district are legally residing within our township, because we’re so overcrowded that we need to look at who is in our district,” Ranghelli said.

The group has suggested to the school board that the district take stronger steps in verifying and re-verifying that children who attend district schools are area residents.

In a statement Friday, Riverhead Superintendent of Schools Aurelia Henriquez said the district “aggressively implements” registration protocol dictated under New York State law, which includes requiring parents to provide current proof of residency documents within 30 days of registration. 

“The Board of Education and administration are diligently working to address the issues of increased enrollment we are currently experiencing in our schools,” Henriquez said.

The civic group has mostly communicated with members via their Facebook page. While the group is primarily focused on school district issues, Ranghelli said members are also willing to take on town issues such as code enforcement.

“Our members come from all different sides, but we all have one thing in common,” Ranghelli said. “We care about the safety and well-being of our community.”

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