LEWISTON — Lewiston-Auburn is getting its first public charter school this fall.

The Maine Charter School Commission gave final approval Tuesday for Acadia Academy to open an elementary school, Commission Executive Director Bob Kautz said. The vote was 6-0.

“We are certainly excited,” Acadia Academy President Christopher Brann, a local banker, said. “We have certainly put a lot of work into this. We are very excited to move on to the next phase of opening Acadia Academy.”

The school will soon hire up to 15 teachers, support staff and administrators, Brann said.

The school will open in the former Holiday Lanes bowling alley on Westminster Street behind Maine Public Broadcasting Corp.

“They have given us the construction schedule,” Kautz said. “The school will be ready by July 15. We visited the building last week. It’s an easy one to renovate.”

The school plans to open with 128 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 2 this fall, eventually housing 250 students in grades pre-kindergarten through grade 6, Brann said.

Acadia Academy is backed by the John F. Murphy Homes, which will provide help with educational programs, business services and a loan for supplies.

The school is also financially backed by local developer David Gendron, who is providing the former Holiday Lanes building for the school. Gendron’s daughter, Tracy Gendron Turner, is among the school supporters.

The rest of the money comes from state taxpayers. Parents do not pay tuition.

Annual revenue for the school will be about $1.5 million, which will come from state education money.

What will make the school different from public schools are class sizes of less than 18 students, direct instruction that gives specific lessons a child needs, and “experiential learning,” which, for instance, may teach math or science with classwork, plus a trip to a farm or art gallery.

The school will also offer year-round learning with six weeks of three-day programs during the summer to reduce learning loss.

Summer attendance will be optional.

“If families take two weeks to go on vacation out of state, there’s no expectation,” their child be in school, Brann said.

In the first year of operation, there will be no hot lunch. Students will bring brown bag lunches, but provisions will be made for students who show up without lunch, Brann said.

“No child will be left hungry,” he said. 

The school will provide transportation to students who live in Lewiston and Auburn, Brann said.

Several years ago, a similar charter school proposal was rejected by the commission out of concern that ties were too close to the John F. Murphy Homes.

Brann said while John F. Murphy Homes is providing education and business services, school staff will not be employed by John F. Murphy. The school’s principal and board of directors will be independent, Brann said.

Kautz said the commission said Acadia Academy is to repay a $250,000 debt to John F. Murphy before five years. The loan is for classroom furniture, supplies and other materials.

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Q: What’s a public charter school?

A: According to the National Charter School Resource Center, charter schools are public schools operating under a “charter,” essentially a contract between the school and its authorizing agency. In addition to allowing the school to open, the charter allows the school significant operational autonomy to pursue specific educational objectives. Charter schools are often not a part of states’ current districts. Therefore, students attend charter schools by the choice of their parents or guardians rather than by assignment to a school district.

Maine charter schools are overseen by the Maine Charter School Commission. For more information, visit www.maine.gov/csc. 

Open houses about Acadia Academy

March 11 — Lewiston Public Library, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

March 17 — Auburn Public Library, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

For more info, visit www.acadiaacademy.org.


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