The board that oversees Maine charter schools has recommended approval of an application from Maine Virtual Academy, which wants to open the state’s second online charter school.

The Maine Charter School Commission will vote Thursday on a recommendation to authorize contract negotiations between the state and Maine Virtual Academy. The meeting will be held in the Cross Office Building in Augusta, Room 103B, beginning at 9:30 a.m. The academy must get at least five votes from the seven commission members for its charter to be approved.

The current application is the third by Maine Virtual Academy. Its board withdrew its first application in 2013 and had its second application rejected by the commission last spring over concerns that there would not be enough local control over the school.

The Maine Virtual Academy school board originally planned to have the vendor, K12 Inc., hire all teachers, provide back-office support and essentially run the school as a turnkey operation. That’s the standard model for Virginia-based K12, the nation’s largest online education company with schools in more than 30 states.

However, when Maine Virtual Academy officials presented their updated proposal to the commission last month, they said the school would be staffed by Mainers. In addition, the recommendation from the charter school commission includes a no-exclusivity provision that allows the school to contract with multiple companies for services, not just K12.

“Our view is that there is room for two virtual schools,” said Peter Mills, who serves as secretary of Maine Virtual Academy’s School Board. He is also the executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority.

If the commission approves the school’s charter Thursday, Mills said, the board will immediately begin to recruit grade 7-12 students for the start of the September 2015 school year. Mills said his board envisions a virtual school for about 300 students from across Maine. It will be based in Bangor or Waterville.

“We view this as an opportunity for kids that are not doing well in public schools due to physical or emotional impediments,” Mills said. “There are a lot of kids out there in danger of dropping out or leaving school that could be served well by the environment of a virtual school.”

There are still four spots available for new charter schools in Maine under the state’s 10-school cap through 2021. It’s possible that Gov. Paul LePage and legislative Republicans will try to increase the number allowed or lift the cap altogether when the next legislative session begins in January.

The six existing charter schools are: Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Fairfield; Cornville Regional Charter School; Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in Portland; Fiddlehead School for Arts & Sciences in Gray; Harpswell Coastal Academy; and the state’s first virtual charter school, Maine Connections Academy, which opened this fall.

Virtual charter school students learn largely from home and get lessons online, with limited face-to-face interaction with teachers and administrators. Supporters say the schools are good for students who don’t “fit” at traditional schools, from athletes in intense training to students who have been bullied. Virtual charter schools also have drawn criticism, in part because local school boards outsource their management to for-profit companies that are beholden to shareholders.

Bob Kautz, executive director of the Maine Charter School Commission, said there is an element of face-to-face contact between teachers and students in virtual schools, but most of the teaching is done online, he said. A student could Skype his teacher with questions, or in some instances get a home visit from an instructor, but “it’s predominantly going to be a virtual relationship,” Kautz said.

A 2012 Maine Sunday Telegram investigation of K12 and Connections Education, which runs Maine Connections Academy, showed that Maine’s digital education policies were being shaped in ways that benefited the two companies, that the companies had recruited board members in the state, and that their schools in other states had fared poorly in analyses of student achievement.

In 2013, K12 settled a federal class-action lawsuit in which some claims, including those alleging K12 made false statements about student results, were dismissed for lack of merit, while others – that K12 boosted enrollment and revenues through “deceptive recruiting” practices – were dismissed as part of a $6.75 million settlement with plaintiffs.