Harpswell School survives after OK commission considers consolidation


The Maine Charter Schools Commission approved Harpswell Coastal Academy’s plan to consolidate its two campuses Tuesday afternoon, a move that ends months of uncertainty for students, parents and educators across the board. ‘school.

If the commission had rejected the proposal to move about 100 secondary school students from Brunswick to Harpswell, school officials said financial problems would have closed the facility at the end of the school year.

“The work is off to a good start,” said Commission Chairman Wilson Hess, a member of the 4-1 majority that endorsed the proposal. “But this is only the beginning. There is still a lot of work to do.

To make room for its secondary students, Harpswell Coastal Academy will purchase and install three yurts – a circular tent-like structure – this summer at its Harpswell campus, where students in grades 5-8 are currently located. year.

“Our schedule for summer work looks pretty good,” said Mel Christensen Fletcher, a science teacher who will serve as acting principal next year. “We have a built-in piece there if things take a little longer.”

If construction is delayed, the school will use spaces like the library, music room and gymnasium as temporary classrooms in the fall, she added.

Several members of the Commission, who initially deferred judgment on the Harpswell charter school proposal at its April 12 meeting, praised both the administration’s detailed plans for consolidation and community engagement and their successful fundraising efforts.

The school has raised $160,000 through two separate fundraising campaigns, enough to afford the $200,000 to $250,000 consolidation project without funding, according to current school principal Scott Barksdale.

“The financial consideration was a very troubling consideration when we went down this road,” Hess told HCA management. “Being able to resolve this particular financial situation like you did and take it off the table was a very important step.”

Victoria Kornfield of Bangor, the commission’s only dissenter, remained skeptical of the school, which has failed to stay within 10% of its enrollment target for two consecutive years and has a dropout rate. 50% chronic absenteeism, according to a Commission report.

“The plans are wonderful,” Kornfield said, noting that commission staff recommended against the consolidation proposal in April. “But past performance indicates they won’t be able to do everything they say they are.”

Other members of the commission acknowledged mistakes made by the school administration, including a recently discovered $132,000 budgeting error that contributed to the school’s financial difficulties. Still, they expressed hope that the widespread community effort to save Harpswell Coastal Academy had put the institution back on track.

“I feel like you’re all finally pushing the rock up the hill,” said Maine Charter School Commission member Shelley Reed. “It’s my hope that the rock doesn’t fall on you.”

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