The visit marks the first by a Maine Education Commissioner to one of the state’s six new public charter schools
PORTLAND – Maine’s Acting Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin will visit the Baxter Academy for Technology & Science on Friday to see how the innovative new public school is engaging its students through hands-on group learning.
The visit marks the first time a sitting education commissioner has toured a Maine public charter school since Governor Paul R. LePage signed legislation making Maine the 41st state to allow public charters and expanded the opportunity Maine students have to attend the school that is in their best interest.
Each Friday at Baxter Academy, which focuses on STEM study, students spend the day either at internships in the community or working with their faculty mentors on design and implementation of group projects, such as building a recumbent bicycle or designing a more efficient wind turbine blade.
The Acting Commissioner will see that hands-on education in action and talk with students and staff about how Baxter is serving the unique needs of its 223 students who come from 54 school districts.
The visit from the state’s top education official comes the same week the Legislature’s Education Committee considers a funding fix from the LePage Administration that would have the Maine Department of Education make monthly payments directly to approved public charter schools, the same way State dollars are distributed to traditional public school districts. Currently, districts that lose students to public charters are billed directly by the receiving charter school, making yearly budgeting unpredictable for traditional public schools, some of which are losing dozens of students to nearby charters.
Maine now has six operational public charter schools enrolling a total of nearly 900 students, including Baxter Academy, Cornville Regional Charter School, the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Hinckley, Fiddlehead School of Arts and Science in Gray, Harpswell Coastal Academy and the virtual Maine Connections Academy. A seventh – Maine Virtual Academy – will open this fall.
While he is in southern Maine, the Acting Commissioner will also meet with Cumberland County superintendents.