Baxter Academy charter school opening in Portland delayed for a year

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PORTLAND — Proposed charter school Baxter Academy of Technology and Science has received conditional approval from the state to open in September 2013 – a year later than originally planned.

In a 6-0 vote, the Maine Charter School Commission gave the school conditional approval at a Tuesday meeting in Augusta. The approval requires Baxter to revise its charter application with additional information by Sept. 30. Baxter would then have until Jan. 30 to negotiate a charter contract.

The decision comes two weeks after the commission postponed a vote because it had questions about the school’s budget.

The 2013 opening is necessary because Baxter needs more time to complete preparations for its first day, including making handicapped-accessible changes in  space the school leases at 54 York St., Baxter Executive Director John Jacques said.

“It was just getting to be too short a time-frame, and too impractical to finish everything we had to do,” he said. “Opening in 2013 is better for all concerned.”

Boosting applications will be a priority for the school over the coming year, he said. Fifty-one students already had applied to Baxter before Tuesday’s vote. The academy was aiming for an enrollment of up to 160 freshmen and sophomores to start in September.

Reaction to the commission’s decision was mixed. Jacques said parents, staff, and school supporters were “thrilled” that the school is approved — conditionally — to open. But some parents are impatient.

“We as parents and taxpayers deserve choice, and one magnet school four hours north of Portland is not much of a choice,” said Ruth Dean, who is a member of Friends of Baxter Academy, a group of Portland-area parents.

Charter schools, which receive public funding, but are operated by parents and community members, typically offer classes in specialized academic areas. Baxter plans a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

If it had opened this fall as proposed, Baxter would have been Maine’s second charter school. The commission may charter as many as 10 schools over the next 10 years.

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.