Harpswell Coastal Academy Senior Carli Clark spends many school days making food as part of an internship at a local restaurant, Brunswick's New Beet Market. Credit: Courtesy of Brett Plymale / Maine Public

A charter school in Harpswell could close if the state doesn’t approve a plan to consolidate its campuses next week.

Harpswell Coastal Academy, one of Maine’s 10 charter schools, launched in 2013 and serves students from grades 5 through 12. The school has promoted community partnerships and a project-based learning curriculum, but in recent years, it’s faced enrollment challenges. In a letter to the community last month, first reported by the Harpswell Anchor, the school said that during the pandemic, enrollment has fallen to 173 students this year — well below its target of 210. The school’s graduation and absenteeism rates are also below the state average.

In order to help stabilize its finances, the school’s board of directors approved a plan last month to consolidate the school’s two campuses into one. The consolidation plan and a request for financing is set to go before the Maine Charter School Commission next week.

In an email, Maine Charter School Commission Executive Director Jeremy Jones said that commission staff are still gathering information about Harpswell Coastal Academy’s request.

“We are trying to determine the viability of their proposal and how it will impact students and families long term and what past precedent provide us with indicators of potential future success,” Jones said.

In a letter to the community last week, Harpswell Coastal Academy officials said that if the commission doesn’t approve the plan, they “do not see a path forward for our school to continue for the 2022/2023 school year.”

“We will, however, await the Commission’s final decision on April 12. If, as we anticipate, the Commission votes to deny our applications for consolidation and loan financing, HCA’s board will have no choice on April 13 but to vote to close the school at the end of this school year,” Head of School Scott Barksdale and Board Chair Cynthia Shelmerdine wrote in the letter.

“This is terribly sad news for all of us,” the letter continued. “The Board and the community are fully committed to the school, and have worked very hard to find a plan that we thought would sustain it. But without the Commission’s approval, we cannot go forward.”

School officials declined to offer any additional comment Monday. The Maine Charter School Commission will take up the school’s proposal at its next meeting on April 12.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.