PARIS — SAD 17 officials expect to pay between $49,000 and $63,000 or higher for seven students who have chosen to attend the Maine Connections Academy this year.

The opening of Maine’s first online charter school in August left school officials across the state in limbo as they awaited to hear how many of their own students would leave in favor of the online offering and what the financial impact would be to their district.

“We have not been billed yet, so I don’t know what costs they are expecting us to pay,” Superintendent Rick Colpitts said. “My best guess is that it will cost us between $7,000 and $9,000 per student (or higher), depending on if any of the students have identified special needs with required specialized programming.”

The money will be taken out of the contingency fund, he said, because in June, when the SAD 17 budget was approved, there was no way of knowing how many, if any, SAD 17 students would attend the online charter school.

The virtual school is funded through the enrolling students’ home school districts. In this case, Colpitts said, some of the students were previously home-school students not enrolled with in a SAD 17 school and others were transfers from the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

School districts with students who attend a brick-and-mortar charter school pay the charter school an allocation, which includes state and local funding, for each student. Those schools usually affect only schools in the district’s region, but in the case of an online school, students can enroll from across the state.

SAD 17 did have one student enrolled last year in a brick-and-mortar charter school — the Fiddlehead School of Arts & Sciences in Gray — but that student chose not to enroll this year, Colpitts said.

The Oxford Hills School District received a $7,424 tuition bill for the student to attend the school last year and already budgeted for that student this year before it knew whether the student would be attending the charter school again.

The bill for the first-grade student, dated Sept. 23, 2013, included the basic EPS rate of $6,137 plus $530 in transportation costs and other miscellaneous fees. It was paid in four installments, but was received after that year’s fiscal budget had been approved the previous June. The amount was charged to the contingency fund.

The Maine Charter School Committee approved the Scarborough-based Maine Connections Academy for 270 students in grades seven to nine in March. Its approval unleashed concern statewide from some educators, who worry about not only the costs but the outsourcing of public education in Maine.

The Maine Connections Academy will get its curriculum, online platform and some of its teachers from an American subsidiary of London-based Pearson PLC.

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