Four groups plan to apply for the last charter school slot available in Maine, state officials said Tuesday.
Filing letters of intent by the deadline Tuesday were the Ecology Learning Center, Inspire ME Academy, Sheffwood Academy and Umbrella Preschool.
Maine currently has nine charter schools, including two virtual schools and two schools that offer residential options.
By law, the state has a cap of 10 charter schools until 2021. There is no limit on the number of charters that could be opened by a school board within the boundaries of its school administrative unit, but so far no district has pursued a charter.
The Ecology Learning Center would be a high school of fewer than 100 students located in Montville in Waldo County.
According to its website, the Ecology Learning Center was started by homeschooling families in January 2018 and currently runs a two-day middle school program.
Inspire ME Academy, which unsuccessfully applied for a charter in 2015, proposes a K-8 school for up to 150 students in the Sanford area. It is led by Renee Morin, owner of a real estate appraisal business in Biddeford. In 2016, she unsuccessfully ran as a Republican challenger in House District 11.
Sheffwood Academy would be a school in Topsham for up to 700 students in grades six through 12, focusing on the arts and technology. It is led by Meleena Erikson, a marketing consultant and author.
Umbrella Preschool, led by Tonya Arnold, proposes opening a pre-K program that would be located in public schools. Arnold is principal of Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, a charter school in Hinckley.
“Ideally, our facilities will be inside public elementary schools with unused space. Sebago Elementary, Baldwin Library, Opportunity Alliance, Head Start, and Maine Roads to Quality are initial partners,” wrote Arnold, a longtime teacher and administrator.
Before joining the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, Arnold was a school principal in Fryeburg, in Stratford, New Hampshire, and at Lakes Region Middle School in Naples. She was nominated as Maine Principal of the Year in 2015 and Maine Teacher of the Year in 2005.
About 2,200 of Maine’s roughly 181,000 students attend charter schools. Total state funding for charter schools is $25.7 million in 2018-19.
Interested parties must file a full charter school proposal by June 21, followed by interviews and public hearings, with the Maine Charter School Commission making any decisions to approve or deny applications on Sept. 3.