Maine’s first virtual charter school enrolls enough students to open

Amy Linscott opens Maine Connections Academy's 536-page application last March to become an approved charter school in Maine.
Nell Gluckman | BDN
Amy Linscott opens Maine Connections Academy's 536-page application last March to become an approved charter school in Maine. Buy Photo
Posted July 18, 2014, at 3:44 p.m.
Last modified July 24, 2014, at 3:40 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Maine Connections Academy, the first virtual charter school approved by the state, has received enough intent-to-enroll letters to open in the fall, according to a member of the school’s board of directors.

As of Wednesday, the school had received 247 letters, four more than the minimum required by the Maine Charter Commission, according to board member Amy Linscott. Bob Kautz, executive director of the Maine Charter Commission, confirmed the number on Friday.

The school missed its original deadline to enroll the number of students that the charter commission said would make it financially viable to open this year. However, the commission gave Maine Connections Academy an extension until July 15, citing the amount of time it takes to officially enroll.

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.

Charter schools are funded by the hometowns of the students they enroll, according to the Maine Department of Education website. When a student chooses to attend, his or her local school district pays the charter school a tuition rate that is set by the state, instead of spending that money in a brick-and-mortar school.

The virtual school in Maine has a contract with Connections Academy, a company that supported 25 virtual charter schools in 23 states in the 2013-14 school year, according to its website.

Connections Academy is owned by Pearson PLC, a London-based publicly traded publishing company that is responsible for many standardized tests and textbooks used in the U.S.

The students who enroll at Maine Connections Academy can come from anywhere in the state. They will work from home with a program called Connexus, which students use to take classes, submit work and communicate with their teachers, who will all work out of a facility in South Portland.

In June, the school hired its first principal, Karl Francis, who had previous worked as a guidance counselor at Westbrook High School.

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