For the first time, Riverview Charter School’s enrollment lottery will give non-white students a better chance of getting into the school.
The federal Office for Civil Rights said in a letter that an additional “card” for minority applicants should be included this year. The letter was received by Beaufort County Board of Education Chairman Fred Washington Jr. on Wednesday, according to a district news release.
Riverview is part of a voluntary desegregation agreement between the school district and the federal government. The charter school is required to have a percentage of white and black students that’s close to the percentage of those populations in the school district as a whole.
In order to comply with that agreement, Riverview must decrease its number of white students and increase its number of black students. Riverview is currently about 65 percent white, Riverview director Alison Thomas said. The goal is about 60 percent white, she said.
According to the district release, OCR said its directive came after considering “"the outcomes of trial lotteries using various weighting factors, and carefully considered the progress (or lack thereof) that Riverview has made in meeting the Desegregation Plan’s requirements related to student enrollment."
Thomas said the school has considered a race-weighted lottery in the past to meet OCR goals.
But that option has always been turned down by the district and OCR, she said.
This year, the school didn’t submit a race-weighted lottery in its proposed scenarios, Thomas said. But shortly after she sent the proposals to the district and OCR, she was asked to run the numbers if the lottery was weighted for race.
Thomas said on average, a race-weighted lottery produced a student body that was 2 percent less white than a non-race-weighted lottery.
Each of the 671 students who have applied for the 114 open spots at the school will receive one card in the lottery.
Minority applicants will receive an additional card.
Students in zip codes 29920, 29940, 29941 and 29945 — which Thomas said included Dale, St. Helena Island, Seabrook and Sheldon — will receive three additional lottery cards as will students of single parents and kindergarten applicants who attended a public or U.S. Department of Defense preschool program.
Thomas said she hopes set a date for the lottery within the next few days.