AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Connections Academy, an online charter school that expects to open its virtual doors this fall, has been granted more time to enroll the minimum number of students required by the Maine Charter School Commission.
Though the commission had told Maine Virtual Academy that it needed to have 243 students enrolled by June 1, on Tuesday the commission voted to extend the enrollment deadline to July 15, according to Bob Kautz, the executive director of the Maine Charter School Commision.
To date, 201 students have submitted written declarations of intent to enroll, Kautz said.
“They were confident that they would still get up to the numbers,” he said, adding that in order to enroll, families must receive applications by mail, fill them out and send them back, a process that is underway, though it takes time.
He said the school’s representatives were “encouraged to notify school districts in a timely manner of any students who are showing their intent to go to Connections Academy.”
So far, 56 school districts have been notified that one or more of their resident students will be attending the virtual school.
In April, members of the school’s board and the charter commission determined that the charter commission would have the discretion to determine whether the school could still open if it did not meet that 243-student mark before the start of the school year. In other words, the school will not automatically close if it falls a few students short.
The Maine Education Association expressed concern after the vote over how the extension would affect school budgets.
“Budgets are being approved right now,” said Lois Kilby-Chesley, the association’s president. “So definitely if they’re given until July 15 to make a decision on whether or not they’re going to go to a charter or not, that is going to impact local district funding.”
The charter commission also received a report on Tuesday from Harpswell Coastal Academy, the charter school that drew criticism in May because it failed to administer statewide standardized tests to its students.
The school has since given students the Northwest Evaluation Association test, an assessment that the charter commission finds appropriate, Kautz said.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the charter commission voted down a request from the Baxter Academy for Technology and Sciences to offer school for one day less than the required 175 days.