Maine Charters Growing Slowly as Online Options Succeeding


Charter schools in Maine are increasing in popularity, including two completely online options. 1,540 of the state’s 184,000 students are now attending Maine’s 7 charter schools, which are all at or near their full capacity.

A law passed in 2012 limits Maine’s charter schools for the next decade. The state has a cap of 10 charter schools, so only 3 more organizations can apply and be approved, writes Nicole K. Gallagher of the Portland Press Herald. Four schools applied for those slots: Acadia Academy, Snow Pond Arts Academy, Inspire ME Academy, and Peridot Montessori Charter School.

Shelley Reed, chairwoman of the Maine Charter School Commission, said that the charter sector in the state, albeit a small one, is succeeding:

It’s amazing. Our schools are doing good. We could potentially reach our cap.

Snow Pond Arts Academy would be in Sidney and offer core high school subjects while focusing heavily on the arts, reports Nick McCrea of the Bangor Daily News. Acadia Academy would serve pre-K through sixth grade students in the Lewiston-Auburn area. Inspire ME Academy would teach grades 4 through 8 in York County. Peridot Montessori would teach pre-K through eighth grade in Hancock County.

Maine’s first virtual school, Maine Connections Academy (MCA), increased from 267 to 396 students this year with a waiting list of 147. It offers classes from accredited teachers for students in grades 7 through 12. Students attend live lessons daily using video chat or audio and have to be present for roll call, but those who take a sick day can listen to recordings of the classes. During these lessons, they can “raise their hands” with the click of a button.

Chris Costa of WCSH6 quoted the Head of School for MCA, Karl Francis, on the :

It’s exciting to see that need in the state and it’s exciting to see that we had such a successful year.

However, he also warns that online schools aren’t for everyone:

A student who’s not able to have some self motivation and be able to commit to logging in and doing work on their own, on their own behalf, is really going to struggle in this environment.

Maine’s second online public charter school, Maine Virtual Academy, opened classes this year. It has 290 students and also has a waiting list. Its students come from 91 different districts.

Sarah Levier, who attends MCA, said:

It was definitely a huge transition to do everything online. It was very difficult to try to move into that, but now it runs smooth and I don’t find anything I can’t do.

She added that doing online lessons at her own pace is less stressful.

I can just be like, “OK I need to take a break right now,” and then move on to something different, or go back to it later.

Sarah’s mother, Natalie Levier, is a learning coach, and she believes that online learning has been good for her kids. She doesn’t have to monitor them too closely, and she finds that the interactive lessons are good at meeting her children’s individual needs. She said:

I actually feel like it’s a tougher curriculum. Once they get to middle school, high school, the teachers aren’t the same as elementary school where you talk back-and-forth all the time with their teachers, but at the same time being able to be involved, they are thriving in it.