CORNVILLE — The Cornville Regional Charter School, Maine’s first elementary charter school, has been given state approval to add a high school and pre-kindergarten classes to its program.

Travis Works, the school’s executive director and principal, said the vote Tuesday by the Maine Charter School Commission marks a historic moment, as the school becomes Maine’s first pre-K-12 charter school. The expansion of the school, which has more than 140 students, also would involve school space for high school students in downtown Skowhegan.

“The Cornville campus is going to reap the benefits of the expansion, because with more learners comes more funding,” Works said Tuesday. “We’re overjoyed by the vote. I am ecstatic with the charter (school) commission’s approval to expand our programming.”

Bob Kautz, executive director of the Maine Charter School Commission, said by phone Tuesday that the commission’s review team liked what they saw in Cornville’s proposal.

Kautz said the next steps for the school will include planning for program expansion and obtaining the materials needed to continue its successes, including hiring the additional staff it will need for both programs. The school has applied to the state to become an approved pre-school, which is needed before it can open, Kautz said.

“With notification (of the commission’s expansion approval) for both of them here in December, it gives them a good six to eight months to prepare to bring it all about.”


Works said next year the school will be able to hire a full-time foreign language teacher and a physical education and health teacher.

“As we grow, we will add a music facilitator, guidance counselor and other positions that are challenging with only 144 learners,” Works said. “These new positions will work with all of our learners across the three campuses and therefore strengthen our programming.”

The vote by the six commission members Tuesday was unanimous.

“I am looking forward to seeing the innovative program Cornville has implemented at the K-8 level expanded to pre-K,” Laurie Pendleton, chairwoman of the charter commission, said via email Tuesday. “I’m also pleased that they will now have the ability to provide the continuation of the program to high school.”

A charter school is a public school that receives public money, but is created and operated by parents, teachers and community leaders, free of the rules and regulations of the area school district. Charter schools are open to all regional students, with no additional tuition fees or admissions tests.

Teachers touch on everyday skills, including cooking, knitting, gardening and woodworking, along with classroom lessons based on Maine’s Common Core of Learning. Works said the National Alliance for Charter Schools is conducting a video case study of the Cornville school’s success, and schools from as far away as South Dakota have sent educators to learn how to replicate the model.

The pre-kindergarten students will be housed in the Skowhegan Nursery School on Dr. Mann Road, and the high school will be in the former Holland’s Variety Drug store, with entrances on Water Street and Commercial Street, in downtown Skowhegan. Works said the school is in the process of buying the former drugstore and will convert the building into classrooms and open space, with an eye to restoring the upper floor to its original wood-and-plaster appearance.

“We were just waiting to get the approval from the Charter Commission, so now we can move forward,” Works said. “Our next step is to continue with the Planning Board process and prepare for recruiting high-quality staff.”doesn’t mean they automatically go downtown,” he said.

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