Maine’s Second Online Charter School Up for Approval

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The Maine Charter School Commission is considered opening a second online charter school in the state.

The commission voted last week to move forward with the application from the Maine Virtual Academy.  At the same time, the commission voted not to approve applications from the Lewiston-Auburn-based Acadia Academy and Sanford-area Inspire ME Academy.

The next steps in the application process include an interview with the applicant, a public hearing, and a vote on November 13 to decide whether or not to begin contract negotiations with the school.

If approved, the school will open in the fall of 2015.

Maine Virtual Academy has applied for the position three times so far.  The school withdrew its application the first time and was denied by the commission last year.

The commission had rejected the application last year due to several concerns, including the board did not know enough about key school functions yet, such as hiring teachers; SAT and Advanced Placement test results could not be provided; and some board members were not as engaged in the school as others.

School board officials promised to change in order to please the commission.

“The applicant has made a good faith effort to address the concerns of the commission from its previous application,” the review team wrote in its report, noting that the board will employ all staff, the school will have a physical location in Maine and that all teachers administrators and staff will live and work in Maine. “The changes in this application … provide greater assurance that the board will be successfully be able to manage the (education service provider) and is sufficiently independent.”

Students of virtual charter schools learn at home through online lessons, with a small amount of face time with teachers and administrators, which can be beneficial for students who do not “fit” in traditional schools, such as athletes with extreme schedules to students who have been victims of bullying.  However, critics are not happy that the schools outsource their management to for-profit companies.

Academic services for the new school will be provided by K12 inc, the nation’s leading online education company.

K12 faced a class action lawsuit in 2012 by former teachers stating the company hid their high student turnover rates which led to poor school performance and quality.  The teachers accused the company of accepted students they knew would not perform well in an online setting, pressuring people to accept even more students, worrying more about enrollment numbers than whether or not the student was a good fit for the school.

K12 settled the lawsuit for $6.75 million in 2013.

There are currently 6 charter schools in the state serving a total of 900 students.  Four spots remain open for new charter schools under the state’s 10-school cap, running through 2021.

Maine Connections Academy is the state’s first virtual charter school, which opened this fall.