July 30, 2013

Maine panel sets deadline for charter school applications

There is now a separate application for virtual schools that spells out specific requirements, such as weekly face-to-face time for students and instructors.

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — The next round of applications to open a charter school in Maine will be due by Dec. 2.

The Charter School Commission voted Tuesday to approve the deadline, the final language for applications for both regular charter schools and virtual charter schools, and a new scoring system for evaluating applications.

The legal request for applications will be published in the Kennebec Journal 60 days previous to the Dec. 2 deadline, but commission staff intends to post the applications on the commission website before then, to allow applicants as much time as possible to complete the documents, which are each almost 40 pages long.

Five charter schools have already been approved – three of which will open this fall – under the state’s 10-school limit. No virtual charter schools have been approved.

The applications have changed in the last year, with additional requirements in some areas, such as demonstrating that applicants have already held meetings in the targeted community. There is also now a separate application for virtual schools that spells out specific requirements, such as weekly face-to-face time for students and instructors, and a school board that is clearly independent of the school’s education service provider, which in most cases is a large national company.

“They need it because there is some substantive changes in here,” Executive Director Bob Kautz said. “I think they’re going to need the time.”

Other changes in the RFP are in the areas of finance, professional development, parent involvement and special education. The commission plans to release an executive summary that highlights the changes. The new scoring system spells out each key requirement, and is 36 pages long.

The commission also approved a new $55 per diem policy for its members, in line with other state commissions. Commission members were previously unpaid.

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