Baxter Academy looking for larger Portland space

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PORTLAND — The city’s first charter school could be moving to a new location in the next few years.

Michele LaForge, head of school for the Baxter Academy for Science and Technology, said the building at 54 York St. is too small to accommodate the school’s students and faculty. The school also leases space in the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies building on Congress Street.

LaForge said housing everyone in a single building is preferred.

Now in its third year, Baxter Academy has grown from about 120 students to more than 320. LaForge said ideally, staff would like a building that can house 350 students, which is what the school’s charter allows. Additionally, she said the new space would be able to house 50 faculty members.

But LaForge also also said the waiting list for Baxter Academy is long, and there are already more applications than spots available for enrollment.

“If the building was twice as big as we needed, could I see us doing something bigger? Sure. But it’s not part of our plans now,” she said.

LaForge said the York Street location is around 19,000 square feet, but “a considerable portion is not usable” for educational spaces because the building was last used as a call center. She said the space leased on Congress Street is roughly 6,000 square feet. The space they are hoping to find would be between 30,000 and 35,000 square feet.

“Our priority is to stay in Portland,” LaForge said.

LaForge said “almost since day one” administrators have been looking for and evaluating what the best space for the school would be.

“It’s wonderful to be in a historical, wonderful quirky building, but it’s not extremely well suited for the needs of a high school,” she said.

The lease on both locations runs through 2018, but the main building on York Street is the driving force. LaForge said it is also important for the entire school population to be together, which a larger school would accommodate.

She said if a place is  found that is ready to move in to immediately, it could be done. But LaForge also said there is the ability to wait if whatever space settled on needs renovations.

“If it makes sense to move fast we can. If not, we can make arrangements,” she said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

The Baxter Academy for Technology and Science at 54 York St. in Portland. Officials are hoping to find a new location for the charter school.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.