For Rob and Tracey Logan, it’s about options for their 10-year-old.

Logan said his son does well in subjects like math and history, and has a double-dose of creativeness. But sometimes the fifth-grader has a hard time with how the classroom functions.

So the Logans are celebrating Tuesday’s decision by the Maine Charter School Commission to move ahead with consideration of Harpswell Coastal Academy as the state’s next public charter school.

Harpswell Coastal Academy was the only charter school application of five to move forward Tuesday. Four others — two “virtual schools” and one each in Kennebunk and Old Town — were rejected because of inadequate financial and curriculum plans or governance.

Local public school officials expressed concern Tuesday about the commission’s results and the rise of charter schools.

“What it means to us is that obviously we’re going to lose dollars, and we are already losing dollars from the curtailment of the governor in this budget,” said Joanne Rogers, school board chairwoman for School Administrative District 75, which provides education to students in Harpswell, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham and Topsham. “The prospect of a charter school simply means more dollars in this district are going to go to another school.”

The 2013-14 budget process is under way in SAD 75. School officials are looking at the money it won’t have, Rogers said, and “it’s going to be even more difficult this year.”

Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen said the number of rejections Tuesday was evidence of a flaw in the commission’s process.

“There’s obviously a problem here,” Bowen said. “What this leads me to wonder is, are we at the Department of Education doing a good enough job, and is the commission doing a good enough job, in indicating to applicants what they should be doing.

“My biggest concern is potentially the chilling effect this will have on other folks putting forward applications,” Bowen said.

The Maine School Boards Association, long an opponent of charter schools, partly because they siphon funding from traditional public schools, praised Tuesday’s action.

“I’m very pleased and feel these were the right decisions for the commission to make,” Maine School Boards Association Executive Director Connie Brown said.

Joe Grady, chairman of the board of directors for Harpswell Coastal Academy, said he was sorry Tuesday for the people who put work into their proposals and will not be moving forward, “but for us it confirms the fact that we have a very strong application, a very strong team and a very strong idea that we’re moving forward on.”

“I’m thrilled we’re over this hurdle and we’ll see what comes next,” Grady said.

The Logans were also excited.

“Yeah, I am very excited about it,” Rob Logan said.

“What we have is the environmental resource that is Harpswell,” he said, and as coastal communities struggle to provide opportunities for young families, “to have kids in this kind of area, it’s just great for the community. If you have lots of kids in the community, you have a very vital community. It’s the garden; it’s a source and it’s really important.”

His son attended the nowclosed West Harpswell School before moving to Woodside Elementary School in Topsham three years ago.

While they’ve been happy with his teachers and schools, “The bottom line as a parent is, if you find something that is better for your child’s education and you don’t do it, you’ll kick yourself,” said Rob Logan who, like his wife, is a professional artist.

Rob Logan — who has taught art in charter, private and public schools — said he is a supporter of public schools, and that his son’s teachers have been outstanding. But there have been times when he and his wife have said, “Wouldn’t it be great if (he) had a more project based learning experience?”

When students are allowed to interact with their community to apply skills, “some of the kids really retain it better,” Logan said.

Lee Cataldo of Brunswick said her son is only 5, but she is interested in sending him to a charter school and wishes he could go sooner.

“I really like what they’re designing at the Harpswell (charter) school because it’s very place-based and handson,” she said.

“That’s the kind of thing I see missing in a lot of our public schools,” Cataldo said. “Even when the teachers seem to be interested and excited to offer that to the kids, so much of the infrastructure that’s in our regular school structure doesn’t really allow for that.”

Grady explains the school’s project-based learning as hands-on but, more importantly, relevant.

“Our goal is to use the natural resources base of Harpswell and the coastal ecosystem to engage kids in this community and in the areas of the working waterfront fields and the forests of Harpswell and the host of community members here that can engage kids and work with kids on real-world projects,” Grady said.

The proposed school has “a lot of hard work” to open in September, including finding a facility, hiring staff and attracting students, said John D’Anieri, a consultant working with the school.

That’s if the proposal ultimately is approved.

The commission and the school will spend the next several weeks developing an extensive contract that lays out how the school would operate and how the commission would oversee it. A final decision is expected Feb. 15.

Grady said the school awaits details about the next step from the commission.

“Since we submitted our application, it’s been a little uncertain what’s next,” he said. “So I think we’re excited there’s a concrete next step and we’re going to await the details and do what we need to do to provide the commission with any future detail they want from us.”

The proposal’s next review phase is an interview and public hearing Jan. 18 at Cundy’s Harbor Community Center, 837 Cundy’s Harbor Road. Commission members will interview school officials beginning at 10 a.m.; a public hearing will start at 1 p.m.

The public is invited to comment. Grady said the hearing is “a really important step in the process, and we want everybody’s voice to be heard.”

Grady told The Times Record that Harpswell Coastal Academy hopes to inform the commission by next Tuesday of a potential location for the school.

The school would enroll students in grades 6 to 12, but would open initially with 40 to 80 students only in grades 6 and 9.

Because state education funds would follow a student from the local sending school to a charter school, local public schools could lose funding for up to 80 students next year in an already brutal budget environment.

Rogers, the SAD 75 school board chairwoman, lamented the district won’t know how many students it may lose, and can’t have an exact estimate, until Harpswell Coastal Academy is given permission to operate.

Potentially, “it is a substantial amount of money,” she said.

Asked how she approaches the concept of charter schools, Rogers said, “I think our first concern is, what effect is it going to have on our education system? What impact is it going to have on what we can offer?”

If approved, Harpswell Coastal Academy would be Maine’s fifth public charter school. Current law caps the number at 10, though Gov. Paul LePage is preparing legislation to lift that cap.

Maine’s charter school law was passed by the Legislature in 2011.

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