FAIRFIELD, Maine (AP) — Maine's first two charter schools opened their doors to students on Monday, providing new educational opportunities for about 100 students.
The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences at Good Will-Hinckley in Fairfield and the Cornville Regional Charter School began classes on Monday, making them the first charter schools in the state's history.
The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences has 46 students from 27 school districts. In Cornville, the charter school has enrolled nearly 60 students.
Gov. Paul LePage said that the schools are giving students more choices, and that more choices will help to meet the needs of Maine students.
"For over a year, the governor and I have been saying we must do something different because what we've been doing has not been working," said Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen, who spoke in Fairfield. "Public charter schools are an important part of an effort to give families and students more choices, and to foster more innovation in Maine schools."
Charter schools are funded with state dollars but operate independently of local school boards, offering an alternative school choice for students.
School officials inked five-year deals with the state charter commission on July 31.
In Fairfield, 27 of the 46 students live in four cottages on campus. The other 19 are day students who commute to school.
At a ceremony Monday marking the first day of school, the Harold Alfond Foundation philanthropic organization announced it is contributing $1 million to Good Will-Hinckley's restricted endowment to fund the residential component of the school to help defray the cost of boarding students who can't commute to school on a daily basis
"We are proud to be home to the first charter school in Maine because it represents a new chapter in the educational opportunities that are available to kids across the state who haven't fared as well as they should in traditional classroom settings," said Good Will-Hinckley President and Executive Director Glenn Cummings.
In Cornville, the opening was more low key.
The day started with a group of students raising the U.S. flag that had been saved when the school ended its run as a traditional public school two years ago. After attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance, the students lowered it and raised a new flag to represent the new beginning.