AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Charter School Commission signed contracts with the state’s first charter schools Tuesday morning — the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences at Good Will-Hinckley and the Cornville Regional Charter School.
Contracts with both schools were unanimously approved by the six-member panel, said Jana Lapoint, chairwoman of the Charter School Commission.
“Both were approved within 15 minutes of each other,” said Lapoint. “It was a very nice morning today.”
Both schools signed five-year contracts. Extension contracts are evaluated in the fourth year.
The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences at Good Will-Hinckley will open in the fall with about 42 students. It will operate nearly year-round.
“Today is an important day for the Good Will-Hinckley community, which begins a new chapter in our long history, but also for young people across Maine who have dropped out of sight or disengaged from school, because today they have a new opportunity to envision a better life for themselves,” Glenn Cummings, president and executive director of Good Will-Hinckley, said in a statement. “We hope to become an invaluable asset to the state of Maine.”
The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences’ charter school application was approved by the charter commission on July 17. The school expects to add 20 students per year and will enroll up to 150 students by the 2016-17 school year, it said.
The Cornville Regional Charter School will open on Oct. 1. It is licensed for 60 students in kindergarten through grade six.
“I feel good. I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for the kids in our area,” said Justin Belanger, executive director of Cornville’s school. “I’m glad the charter commission gave us a shot.”
Belanger said the Cornville Regional Charter School has 75 letters of intent to attend the school. With only 60 openings, there will be a lottery on Sept. 4. He added that the school is in the process of interviewing for teacher positions and a principal.
At the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, students will attend the school “four days a week nearly year-round, taking advantage of the summer months to grow outdoor crops and other projects more conducive to warm weather,” read the statement.
The basis of future charter school contracts is now in place, said Lapoint, because of the contracts signed with the Hinckley and Cornville schools.
“We now have two under our belts,” said Lapoint. “With [the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences] leading the way, that was great. We spent an untold amount of time on that contract so we could piggyback a lot of contracts under that one. It gives us a head start on the others coming through.”
The Baxter Academy of Technology and Science in Portland was asked to resubmit material into one booklet for the commission to look over, said Lapoint. It has until Sept. 30 to do so, and until the end of December to have a contract approved.