Proposed charter school signs lease for Portland building

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PORTLAND — The area’s first proposed charter school has signed a tentative agreement with Rufus Deering Lumber Co. to lease a space at 54 York St.

Baxter Academy, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics charter school, was announced earlier this year. It is expected to open in September 2012.

“Being downtown is critical to our plan,” Baxter Academy Executive Director John Jaques said Friday. “It gives us easy access to scientists, professionals and business.”

The building is across the street from Portland Pie Co. and currently houses Rufus Deering’s kitchen design center, and yoga and Zumba studios.

Jaques said the school plans to start with 160 students in September and add a new freshman class each year for three years. He said a five-year lease for the York Street space will give it that flexibility.

The school, which will be the primary occupant of the building, still must be approved by the yet-to-be-formed state Charter School Commission. The lease is contingent on the school’s approval by the commission, which will authorize charter schools for five years at a time.

Jaques would not say how much the school will spend on the lease, other than that it is “fair market value for downtown.”

The school will also lease parking spaces in a nearby lot, he said.

Several weeks ago, the state Department of Education proposed rules for charter schools to the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, which included a rule that would give charter schools only three weeks to enroll all their students.

Jaques and others charter school representatives spoke out against the rule and asked that the enrollment period be extended from three weeks in January to three to four months.

“We’re confident the Education Committee will seriously consider our request,” he said.

Baxter Academy cannot yet accept applications from interested students, but Jaques said he has already received unsolicited job applications from teachers who are “philosophically aligned with what we’re doing here.”

He said he is not sure how many teachers the school will hire, but jobs will be advertised after the charter school is approved.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.