AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s second virtual charter school celebrated the launch of its first year with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday at its headquarters in the Ballard Center in Augusta.
Maine Virtual Academy serves 288 students scattered across the state in grades 7-12.
Virtual charters don’t look like traditional schools. They more closely resemble offices or call centers, with teachers delivering their lessons from cubicles and collaborating with one another in conference rooms. Students log onto their computers to take their lessons, interacting with their teacher and classmates, who could be hundreds of miles away, online.
“This has been a very exciting fall for us,” said Amy Carlisle, chairwoman of Maine Virtual Academy’s board of directors. “[Tuesday] was a day to celebrate all the hard work that was done over many years to open our school. It was also an opportunity to showcase our incredible team of educators that make our public school a great option for Maine students.”
Maine Virtual Academy uses a curriculum developed by K12 Inc., a national leader in online education. Students began their studies earlier this fall at the same time public schools opened for the academic year.
The school says students have access to a large collection of elective courses and can work with the school to customize their learning plan and have some control over the pace at which they learn.
The state’s first virtual charter, South Portland-based Maine Connections Academy, opened its doors in 2014.
Virtual charter school leaders have said their education model isn’t for everyone. Students must be self-motivated or have oversight at home to ensure they’re able to stay on top of their schoolwork.
Some families are drawn to virtual schools because their child struggled with bullying or illness that made it difficult to attend traditional schools. Others might be students heavily involved in athletic training or music whose schedules don’t mesh with a normal school schedule.
As a public school charter, students can attend without cost to the family. The state passed a law last year allowing its seven charter schools to be funded as if they are their own school district, rather than being reimbursed by the districts the students live in.
“We are off to a great start of the school year,” said the school’s CEO Beth Lorigan. “Our teachers and staff worked extremely hard to prepare for a successful school launch. We are building relationships with our parents and students and already creating a close-knit school community.”
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