Bangor charter school controversy continues

BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The state's first virtual charter school, Maine Connections Academy, is expected to welcome its first class this upcoming school year. It has not been an easy road to establish the charter. Lawmakers worked to place a moratorium on virtual charter schools until more research could be done, but Governor Paul LePage vetoed the bill. To ensure the virtual school is meeting its enrollment requirements, Maine Connections Academy representatives are travelling to meet with prospective students and their families. Wednesday night they were Bangor, despite city leaders opposing charter schools.

For the past year, the Queen City has had a moratorium on charter schools to keep any from being built in the area. However, the rule does not include virtual schools.

"A virtual school is a little bit different because it doesn't have a physical location. There will not be a physical location here in Bangor," said Councilor Joe Baldacci, who spearheaded the moratorium.

The city's concerns with charter schools remain the same, virtual or not. City leaders said they worry about the financial burden a charter school would impose. According to Baldacci, if Bangor students choose this virtual option, it will take money away from an already strained budget.

"Every student that comes out of the Bangor school system that would enroll in this, we are going to be paying for it. Property tax payers will, to the tune of $9,000 per student," said Baldacci.

Supporters of Maine Connections Academy disagree with this type of concern. They said the funding is following the student, not taking it away from the schools.

The Bangor moratorium against charter schools expires at the end of June where councilors will discuss the issue.

"I think that it is important for people to realize that parents and students need options, there is more than one way to learn, and that bricks and mortar is not that only way," said Maine Connection Aacademy Board Member Julie Hannan.

Maine Connections Academy said it has 380 students intending to enroll and roughly 180 already committed to next year. The school needs 200 students committed in order to officially open.


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