HINCKLEY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Roughly 100 students attended their first official day of class at Maine's first charter schools.
About sixty students, grades K through 6, celebrated the opening of the Cornville Regional Charter School by changing the flag outside their school and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before hitting the books.
Just down the road in Hinckley, forty-six high schoolers enrolled at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences (MeANS), on the campus of Good Wiil-Hinckley, attended a grand opening celebration attended by several dignitaries involved in bringing charter schools to Maine.
The MeANS program is aimed at kids who have an interest in agriculture and the environment, but may not find a traditional classroom as the best way to reach their full potential.
"I'm a very hands on learner," explained Nicholas Fothergill, a student at MeANS. "I like working outside. I like doing stuff with my hands."
"It is really about how do we make sure that we find in education, and are able to provide students with an educational opportunity, that is going to click for them, that is going to connect to them. Where they say, 'ok this makes sense to me, this works for me, this is taking me where I need to go,'" stated Stephen Bowen, Maine's Commissioner of Education. "All our schools try very hard to do that, and most of the time it works, some times it doesn't, so you want to be able to provide lots of opportunities."
"We wanted to get them before they dropped out, and in some cases after they dropped out, to be here to try a hands-on, real world learning experience that is experiential, that gets them to use their hands, and their minds and their bodies and that they would experience us as a place of success," explained Glenn Cummings, president and executive director of Good Will-Hinckley. "That is our goal here today."
"As a former high school teacher myself, I think that we recognize that children learn differently," said Jana Lapoint, chairwoman of the Maine Charter School Commission. "We don't all learn the same way."
Lapoint says the commission is evaluating two more schools that hope to join the ranks of Maine's charter schools and has received applications from eight others. She says the process for approving new charter schools is not an easy one, involving hundreds of pages of documentation, and requiring schools to develop funding and community support before they are approved.
"We are going to be very, very careful in what we do," said Lapoint.
The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences did receive a substantial gift to mark its official opening, a one million dollar grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation to help form an endowment for students who will be staying on campus while conducting their studies.