AUGUSTA — Two more charter schools are poised to open next fall in Maine after the Maine Charter School Commission voted Tuesday to move forward on contract talks with a performing arts high school in Sidney and an elementary school in the Lewiston-Auburn area.

The commission voted unanimously to approve Snow Pond Arts Academy, which would be located on the campus of the New England Music Camp. Acadia Academy was approved 6-1, with Chairwoman Shelley Reed dissenting after saying she had concerns about whether the school was properly prepared to deal with the needs of low-income students in the area.

“We’re anxious to get started, that’s for sure,” said John Wiggin, director of the New England Music Camp.

The votes mean the commission and the applicants will begin contract negotiations to work out the details of how each school operates. Once a contract is signed, the state grants a charter and the school would open in the fall of 2016.

State law allows a maximum of 10 charter schools. Maine already has five brick-and-mortar charter schools and two virtual charter schools. A total of 1,540 students attend charter schools in Maine, which has about 184,000 students in all.

Both applicants were approved after the commission spelled out certain contract stipulations that must be met in negotiations.

For Acadia, that includes limiting enrollment to pre-K through third grade until officials submit material specifying how it would meet the state learning results for higher grades and provide signed contracts with certain vendors by Feb. 1.

The commission discussed Reed’s concerns at length, and noted that the contract talks would require the school to explain how it will train teachers on poverty’s effects on learning, and how it will recruit students from all socioeconomic areas and accommodate any special needs of those families. Reed was a teacher and counselor in the Lewiston-Auburn area for more than 20 years.

For Snow Pond, the commission asked officials to provide, by Feb. 1, plans for which music camp facilities would be used for the charter school, and more complete curriculum plans.

Snow Pond Arts Academy would be affiliated with the 80-year-old New England Music Camp Association, much like the relationship between the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences charter school and its affiliate, Good Will-Hinckley, a private school in Fairfield.

In both cases, the charter school has contractual relationships with the affiliate to provide certain services, but is a separate entity with an independent board of directors.

Snow Pond Arts Academy would serve ninth- through 12th-graders on the same 40-acre campus used by the music camp’s summer program, and would have access to its facilities and instruments. Students would have to attend all classes on-site, with local teachers using the education curriculum from K12 Inc. of Herndon, Virginia, which is the education services provider for Maine Virtual Academy, one of the state’s virtual schools.

K12 Inc. is not considered the education services provider for Snow Pond, however, just one vendor of services.

Students at Snow Pond would not be taught virtually, officials said, describing the school as the first to offer a complete “blended learning” environment of online curriculum and face-to-face instruction.

Acadia Academy, which also applied last year and did not make it this far in the process, said it offered a unique student experience because of individual attention, small class size and a blending of traditional classroom learning and hands-on “experiential” learning.

John F. Murphy Homes, which provides programs for special-needs adults and children, is the education service provider for Acadia Academy. Officials said local developer David Gendron, the father of school board member Tracy Turner, is donating the school’s building and providing the school with a $300,000 loan.


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