Weeks after Harpswell Coastal Academy’s leaders informed parents the institution would likely have to close at the end of the current academic year, a fast-paced fundraising campaign has given officials hope the charter school will remain open.

The school has raised nearly $160,000 for a project that would relocate its approximately 100 high school students from Brunswick to its Harpswell campus, where grades 5-8 are currently located, according to Head of School Scott Barksdale. Those funds, combined with money already in the school’s budget, will cover the cost of the move, which officials say is necessary in order to keep HCA financially viable next year.

“Our community has stepped up so actively with financial support,” Barksdale said. “That leaves us really optimistic that this is going to work out well.”

The Maine Charter School Commission must approve the consolidation plan at its May 10 meeting or the Harpswell institution, which opened in 2013, will have to close, according to Barksdale. Though the Commission deferred judgement on the plan at its April 12 meeting, Barksdale said the school is in a more favorable position now that it can avoid incurring the $100,000 to $200,000 of debt officials initially projected.

Consolidation would require expanded parking and the purchase and installation of three yurts at the institution’s Harpswell campus, according to the plan submitted to the Charter School Commission. Though officials originally projected the move would cost over $325,000, Barksdale now claims the total will sit between $200,000 and $250,000, as the school won’t need to replace its septic system as initially planned.

The fundraising push, which included a significant gifts campaign for donations over $1,000 and a GoFundMe drive for smaller amounts, is part of a larger effort to win the approval of the Charter Commission, according to Mel Christensen Fletcher, the current team leader for HCA’s high school programs. She cited an ongoing drive to improve the school’s low enrollment numbers, which officials say is at the root of Harpswell Coastal Academy’s financial struggles.


“We have a high percentage of our students who are eligible to re-enroll planning to come back, and we have students and families out there talking to their friends and other folks that they know about enrollment,” said Christensen Fletcher, who will replace the departing Barksdale as interim head of school next year. “Our community wants to be here, and they’re excited about the consolidated campus opportunities for next year.”

The wave of parental support began in March when a school newsletter informed families consolidation was necessary for the school’s survival. Dozens of students, parents and teachers reached out first to the school’s Board of Directors and then to the Maine Charter School Commission to argue HCA’s flexible and inclusive environment makes it a crucial alternative for kids who don’t feel at home in the public school system.

Since the Commission deferred judgment on the consolidation plan, parents have worked on committees aimed at raising funds and boosting enrollment, while teachers and administrators drafted detailed plans outlining their proposed consolidation process. According to Barksdale, the school submitted these reports to the Commission on Wednesday for review.

“Our strength is that ability to be nimble and to respond to the situation, which is what we did with this, what we’ll continue doing as we move forward,” Barksdale said. “It’s certainly challenging work, but it’s worthwhile because the outcome is successful kids, and that’s what everyone wants.”

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