Baxter Academy for Technology and Science held its first lottery Wednesday night, selecting from an overflow waiting list to fill the seats at the expanding charter school.
The public charter school located at 54 York Street had more than 100 students apply for the 85 freshman slots available, according to Head of School Michele LaForge.
The school’s 60 sophomore students plan to return, and there will not be any open slots for new juniors. Seventy-three freshmen also plan to return next year, LaForge said, but the sophomore class is being expanded to 85 seats, so the school used the lottery process to select 12 new students from about 20 applications.
“It’s just terrific,” said Executive Director Carl Stasio. “A year ago we weren’t even here, and now we have a waiting list.”
Baxter Academy, one of five public charter schools operating in the state, opened last fall with an initial student body of 130 seventh and eighth graders from more than 20 towns. It will add a new freshman class the next two years to eventually be a four-year high school beginning in 2015-16.
To accommodate the new students, the school will gut and renovate the basement of its existing building, which is currently not being used, to add three large classrooms and three smaller classrooms, Stasio said. Just this week it completed renovations on the second floor that added several classrooms and office space.
He said the school will have to renovate again to accommodate the next wave of students in fall 2015.
“It’s like building the plane as we fly it,” LaForge said. That applies to several aspects of the school, which has made changes to its academic schedule and course offerings since it opened. For example, the school recently adopted a new block schedule program, allowing for longer periods to study a single topic. The schedule clusters core academic subjects in the morning, with electives in the afternoon. School officials also recently made the school an “open campus,” allowing students to go into the surrounding community at lunchtime.
LaForge said more than half of the interested freshmen had participated in the school’s shadow program, where interested students visit the school for a day.
“People really wanted to know what the school is about,” she said. “What we heard again and again is that they liked that it was a small school, very warm and safe and that they saw kids with different hobbies, different interests all in groups together.”
Maine charter schools are publicly funded but operate independently of public school districts. By law, the state has a cap of 10 charter schools until 2021.
The current charter schools in operation are Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, known as MeANS, located at the former Good Will-Hinckley School in Fairfield; Cornville Regional Charter School; Fiddlehead School for Arts & Sciences in Gray; and Harpswell Coastal Academy.
A sixth charter school, Maine Connections Academy, was authorized this week to open in the fall. It will be the state’s first virtual charter school, with students learning largely from home and getting lessons online.
Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at: