The state has authorized the formation of two more public charter schools, both to be located in southern Maine.

The Maine Charter School Commission met in Augusta on Tuesday and approved the Harpswell Coastal Academy on Harpswell Neck Road by a vote of 7-0, and the Fiddlehead School of Arts and Sciences on Shaker Road in Gray by a vote of 6-1.

Charter schools receive public funding but are formed and operated by parents, teachers and community leaders.

They are largely exempt from the rules and regulations that govern public school districts.

Tuesday’s votes bring the number of approved charter schools in Maine to five, said commission Chairwoman Jana Lapoint. The commission rejected four of five charter school applications it voted on last month.

The commission will negotiate contracts with the two schools designed to ensure that each complies with state education guidelines and adheres to its mission statement.

“I think this is very good news for the state. Now we have schools in several different locations offering students some very creative alternatives,” Lapoint said. “And they are giving parents an opportunity to have a choice in their child’s education.”

Maine’s public charter school law, which took effect Sept. 28, 2011, allows the Maine Charter School Commission to authorize up to 10 public charter schools over 10 years.

The Cornville Regional Charter School in Cornville and the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Hinckley opened last fall.

Commissioners are negotiating contract terms with the Baxter Academy of Technology and Science in Portland that would allow it to open in September, Lapoint said.

Harpswell Coastal Academy will accept students in grades 6 and 9 this fall but within five years expects to serve students in grades 6 through 12.

Its curriculum will incorporate marine and natural resources, farms and forests, and sustainable entrepreneurship, according to its website.

In the school’s application, its founders state that the academy was established by local residents concerned that many of the town’s young people had become “increasingly disengaged from school.”

In its first year, Harpswell plans to enroll 60 students. The number is expected to grow to 280 within five years.

Fiddlehead will open with an enrollment of 30 students in pre-kindergarten and first grade.

In five years, the school expects to enroll 90 students in grades pre-K through 5.

Charter schools do not charge tuition directly to students, but instead charge per-student costs to the school districts in which the students live.

“The money follows the child from their school district,” Lapoint said.

Lapoint said charter schools can also raise money on their own to support educational operations.

“These charter schools will not be encumbered by unions or union contracts.

And there is the potential for teachers to be far more creative than they could be in a public school system,” she added.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted ats 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com