April 30, 2013

Sign-ups for first Portland charter school falling short

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

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

In this January 2, 2013, file photo, Kelli Keliehor, with her 7-year-old daughter Chloe, listens to her other daughter Brianna, 13, speak at a press conference for the Baxter Academy for Technology and Science, a new charter school in Portland.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

That per-pupil funding will make up most of Baxter's revenue, which is why the enrollment figure is critical for planning. The school's budget assuming 160 students anticipated $1.4 million in per-pupil funding out of $1.8 million in total revenue.

Portland public schools expected to be hit hardest, with 18 students going to Baxter Academy under earlier enrollment projections. However, only seven students from Portland have committed to going to the charter school. That could reduce the impact in what is a very tough budget year for the district.

Regional School Unit 5, covering Freeport, Pownal and Durham, now stands to lose only eight students, instead of the 17 projected previously.

Baxter Academy is notifying school districts of students who have committed for the fall, and the districts will send Baxter Academy those students' files. The files will indicate whether the students have any special needs and help the districts and Baxter Academy budget accordingly.

Since Baxter Academy was first envisioned several years ago, all of its budgets, construction plans and financing have revolved around having 160 students in the inaugural class.

Crean Davis, the Baxter board's vice chairwoman, said school officials are planning new recruitment efforts, including house parties held by committed school families to invite interested families, tables at farmers markets and other events, and committed students recruiting other students.

On Wednesday, a Portland attorney who has given Baxter Academy almost all of its privately raised money said he is not concerned about the enrollment figures.

"I am confident they will reach the enrollment they need.  I believe in the school's mission, and remain a strong supporter," Dan Amory wrote in an email.

Amory, members of his family and his family's Jebediah Foundation have donated at least $250,000 to the charter school.

Kelli Keliehor of Gorham, a Baxter Academy parent, said she, too, is sure that the school will reach its goal. She noted that the school on York Street is now just a shell -- construction on classroom space starts May 1.

"There's nothing to sell (Baxter Academy) but the people and the concept," Keliehor said. "To get over 100 students committed -- I think that's actually pretty good."

Crean Davis said the school would accept enrollments until it opens. 

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:



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