LEWISTON — A building that was once a bowling alley will become a public elementary charter school this fall, if it wins final approval March 1.

The 12 Westminster St. building, which used to be Holiday Lanes Bowling Alley behind Maine Broadcasting, will be redeveloped as Acadia Academy, academy President Chris Brann said Tuesday.

The school, backed by John F. Murphy Homes, would become the first charter school in Lewiston-Auburn. It is set to open this year for 128 students in grades pre-kindergarten to two, and will eventually house 250 students up to grade 6.

Public charter schools are paid for by state taxpayers, so parents do not pay tuition. Annual revenue for the school would be $1.5 million, which would come from state education money.

On Tuesday, the Maine Charter Commission heard a progress report on the proposed school.

The three-member subcommittee overseeing Acadia Academy’s development was pleased and confident. “It’s going in the right direction,” Bob Kautz, executive director of the Maine Charter School Commission, said.

The charter school won preliminary approval from the commission on Nov. 17, 2015. A vote for final approval is scheduled for March 1 in Augusta.

On Tuesday, commission members understood complications that have come up with the building, Kautz said.

Acadia Academy’s board was planning to renovate the entire building at once, but it was unaffordable, Kautz said.

“They started looking at other sites, but could not find one as favorable as the original,” he said. “So they went back and are working with an architect. Rather than renovate the entire facility, they’ll renovate a portion for the first year or two.”

That’s been a common practice for other charter schools that have opened in Portland, Gray, Harpswell and Cornville.

Since charter schools operate with public money, the commission has to be sure that by March 1, backers “will have a facility ready and raring to go,” Kautz said. If not, the school may have to wait to open in September 2017.

Brann said Tuesday that their intent is to open the 27,000-square-foot building to four grades this fall.

“We’ll renovate enough space to have a fully operational school,” Brann said. “The remainder of the building will be open space” to be developed later.

The school would grow into the building, adding one grade each year, Brann said.

Parents have expressed interest in the school, he said.

“We have nearly 400 Facebook followers, and over 60 initial applications,” Brann said.

The school cannot accept formal student registrations until it is approved.

Acadia Academy will hold talks to answer questions from interested parents at the Lewiston Public Library at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, and at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, at the Auburn Public Library.

The board is working hard to bring the school to fruition, Brann said.

What will make the school different than public schools is that it will be a smaller, community-based education system with “equal parts hands-on learning and direct instruction,” Brann said.

The school will offer students optional, three-day summer programs “so kids don’t slip back,” Tracy Gendron Turner, Acadia Academy board member, said recently.

Local developer David Gendron, who is Turner’s father, is providing the building to the school free of charge.

Though the programs are being backed by the Murphy homes, “it is not a special needs school,” Brann said. “It is open to any resident of Maine.”

Transportation will be provided for students who live in Lewiston-Auburn, Brann said.

Statewide, there are seven charter schools with 1,500 students.

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The proposed school supporters include people who work for John F. Murphy Homes or have children attending a Murphy kindergarten or pre-kindergarten program.

The president of the board is local banker Chris Brann. Board member Tracy Gendron Turner is a former Lewiston Montello Elementary School teacher. Her father, local developer David Gendron, is providing the building rent free to the school.

Other board members are Kelly Cabral, Holly Copland, Amy Dieterich, Pam Morin, Sean Siebert, Meaghan Swan and Mary Verrill.

For more information, visit www.acadiaacademy.org and www.maine.gov/csc/requests/2016-17.html

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