A Harpswell charter school will close at the end of the school year
One of Maine's first charter schools will close by the end of the school year.
State law requires five of the seven members of the Maine Charter School Commission to vote to renew a charter school's contract. But the Harpswell Coastal Academy was only able to secure four votes at a meeting on Tuesday, meaning it will be the first charter school in the state to close its doors.
The school opened in 2013, with a mission to offer project-based learning with connections to the surrounding community. Students, parents and educators have praised the school's welcoming culture and its ability to meet children's emotional and mental health needs.
But in recent years, enrollment has fallen, the school has struggled to meet academic targets, and the Maine Charter School Commission staff described it in a recent evaluation as "not a financially viable organization."
At Tuesday's meeting, Charter School Commission member Victoria Kornfield noted the school was only able to meet 29 percent of its academic targets over the last four years.
"HCA has been unable to meet the academic standards. Taxpayer dollars are being used to fund this school, where more than half the student population is chronically absent," Kornfield said.
School officials acknowledged some of those challenges, but said they had made significant changes that would lead to better outcomes. School Board Chair Cynthia Shelmerdine told the commission that many students have found success there after struggling at their previous schools.
"HCA produces graduates who have met their academic standards, become creative thinkers, and contributed their talents to society in productive ways," Shelmerdine said.
But despite letters of support from educators, students and families, the commission ultimately voted not to renew the school's charter contract, meaning it will close by the end of the school year.
Commission staff will work with the school to help the transition for students and families.