Five more submit public charter school proposals

The following is a news release from the Maine Charter School Commission.

AUGUSTA – Five groups submitted proposals to open public charter schools in Maine by Wednesday’s deadline. They are the second round of proposals to the Maine Charter School Commission.

“We are very pleased to receive new applications which will provide future public school choices for students,” said Jana Lapoint, Commission chair. “This is exactly what public charter schools were supposed to do – give all students – not just those that can afford expensive private schools – additional choices. Our role is to review these proposals carefully to ensure they are viable and quality options for students.”

The five proposals were received from: Harpswell Coastal Academy, Harpswell; Heartwood Charter School, Kennebunk; Maine Connections Academy; Maine Virtual Academy; and Queen City Academy Charter School, Bangor. The applications will be posted online in about a week on the Commission website.

Three groups that had earlier indicated they planned to submit did not do so by the deadline.

Charter schools are public schools of choice that have more flexibility than traditional public schools over decisions concerning curriculum, instruction, scheduling, staffing and finance. However, they are accountable to the terms of the contracts, or charters, that authorize their existence and the academic standards to which all other public schools are accountable.

The Maine Charter School Commission is considered an “authorizer” under Maine’s public charter school law. The Commission is a seven-member body that can authorize up to 10 public charter schools statewide over the next decade. Local school boards can authorize additional public charter schools

Earlier this year the Commission approved two public charter schools to open Oct. 1, 2012 – the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences and Cornville Regional Charter School – and conditionally approved two others to open next school year, pending further information and review. The Commission held a public comment session Wednesday on one of the two – the Baxter Academy of Technology and Science, and is expected to make a final vote on that application on Nov. 6. The Commission anticipates reviewing and deciding on the other, the Fiddlehead Arts and Science School, later this year.

Two of the second round applicants are virtual schools that had withdrawn their applications in the first round after Commission members said they did not feel prepared in a short time period to review virtual school applications because of their very different nature and because of questions raised in other states about the effectiveness of virtual schools.

“The charter school law is very clear that virtual schools are an option, and the law specifies conditions for those schools,” Lapoint said. “We are not going to shy away from them. We are going to give them a rigorous review, same as with all of our applicants. We enter this process with completely open minds. It will be the responsibility of all of our applicants – virtual and brick-and-mortar – to convince us they are prepared and qualified to educate our students.”

For more information about the Maine State Charter School Commission and Maine’s public charter school law, visit the commission’s web page.

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