Maine charter school students head back to the classroom


STATEWIDE (WGME) -- Students and staff at Maine's nine charter schools are gearing up for another school year.

At ACADIA Academy in Lewiston, students learn a little differently.

"We're able to spend a focused intentional teaching time every day on social emotional learning, infusing that into our literacy lessons, into our math lessons," says Principal Julie Colello.

Acadia is one of nine charter schools in Maine educating about 2,000 students, slightly over 1% of the state's school-aged population. They're independently run public schools funded by the Maine Department of Education, that students and families can choose to attend.

"I think that parents and learners really need a choice," says Travis Works, Executive Director of Cornville Regional Charter School. "It's going to be the best fit for them, to have an education and not just based on what town they happen to reside in."

The schools include ACADIA Academy, Baxter Academy for Technology and Science, Cornville Regional Charter School, Fiddlehead School of Arts and Science, Harpswell Coastal Academy, Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, Maine Connections Academy, Maine Virtual Academy and Snow Pond Arts Academy.

Each school has its own unique mission and vision, but is expected to meet the same academic standards as traditional public schools.

"So we have schools that focus on agriculture and forestry, we have schools that use the Reggio Emilia philosophy, we have schools that are based on the performing arts," says Gina Post, Director of Program Management for Maine's Charter Commission.

In 2011 Maine became the 41st state to allow public charter schools, with a cap of 10 schools in the first 10 years. There was an attempt to lift that cap in April, but it was voted down 7-4 in the legislature's education and cultural affairs committee.

"At this particular point we really don't have that kind of research to indicated whether or not these schools are achieving what we had hoped to achieve," says Representative Richard Farnsworth, a democrat from Portland.

Jana Lapoint, a member of the Charter School Commission and Maine State Board of Education, welcomes more research.

"I don't have a problem with us not having the cap lifted right now," Lapoint says, "I'd rather be able to turn to them and say, 'see, this is what we've done, this is what we said we'd do and we're doing it'."

While the cap wasn't lifted, existing schools can expand, allowing more Maine students to enroll.

To learn more about Maine's charter schools, click here.

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