Riverhead Charter School teachers have been moving into their new classrooms over the past week in preparation for Tuesday’s opening of the recently constructed two-story school in Calverton.
The 50,000-square-foot building allows the tuition-free school to expand its program through eighth grade, making it the only K-8 charter school in Suffolk County.
First grade teacher Lindsay Davis, special education teacher Anthony Dohrenwend and physical education teacher Robert Cook described the building as a new beginning.
Mr. Cook said he’s glad the weather will no longer dictate his lesson plans now that the school’s first indoor gym has been constructed.
Ms. Davis and Mr. Dohrenwend also said they’re very excited about the new gym, which features a basketball court, synthetic floor and folding 150-seat bleachers. Previously, Mr. Cook didn’t have an indoor gym to hold class in.
“They’ve been doing gym, up until this point, in the classrooms and outside,” Mr. Dohrenwend said. “It’s nice they now have a big space to run around in.”
Sixth-grade teacher Laurie Behrhof, who’s worked in the school for 14 years, said she’s excited about the new building because space has become limited as student enrollment has increased over the years.
The charter school was established in 2001 as a K-6 program and currently has students enrolled from about 14 local districts. The new facility will be able to accommodate nearly 500 students, up from its current capacity of about 300. About 50 percent of the school’s student body lives in the Riverhead School District.
Riverhead Charter School principal and executive director Ray Ankrum said he enjoyed choosing paint colors — including bright green hallways and light blue classrooms — and is looking forward to seeing his students enjoy the new facilities.
The new building has larger classroom spaces, as well as library, music, art and science rooms. There’s also a multi-purpose room complete with a kitchen, cafeteria and auditorium. The new administrative wing includes offices, a conference room and faculty lounge.
Third-grade teacher Jenn Borst said she believes having all grades and facilities under one roof is important because teachers will be able to create lesson plans together more easily.
“It’s hard being in two different buildings — now we can collaborate down the hall and not across campus,” she said, adding teacher collaboration is needed in order to better prepare students for Common Core curriculum.
Stalco Construction of Islandia, the general contractor on the $14.1 million project, built a grand main entrance atrium and a large bay window that acts as a reading area.
The hallways are almost as wide as the classrooms and will serve as both common gathering areas and additional educational space. There will also be windows between classrooms and hallways to allow more natural light.
New features outside include a grass play area with landscaping, a bus loop, a parking lot and drainage and sanitation systems.
Roger Smith of BBS Architects in Patchogue, the firm hired to design the project, has described the building’s design as a “hybrid building” since it combines conventional steel-frame construction for larger spaces with pre-manufactured modules for classrooms.
The pre-fabricated modular units, built by DeLuxe in Berwick, Pa., include concrete floor panels, plumbing, electrical wiring, lighting fixtures and windows.
The other two original buildings on the school’s 5.8-acre property are being converted into storage space.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for Jan. 21.
Caption: Gym teacher Robert Cook has been teaching outside for 10 years- now he doesn’t worry about the weather dictating what he teaches each day.