What is a charter school?

Charter schools are always public schools. They never charge tuition and they accept any student who wants to attend. Charter laws require that students be admitted by a random lottery drawing in cases where too many students want to enroll in a single charter school. Charter schools must also meet the state and federal academic requirements that apply to all public schools.—http://www.publiccharters.org

What grades are offered at HCA?

As of 2017, HCA will serve grades 6-12. For the 2014-2015 school year HCA will be accepting applications for our 6th and 9th grades and will serve students in the 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th grades.

How many students are enrolled at HCA?

We believe the ideal size for HCA is 280 students. Public charter schools often phase in enrollment. HCA has approximately 30 students in grade 6 and 30 students in grade 9 for the 2013-14 academic year, and will add approximately 60 more students for the 2014-2015 school year.

What is the admissions process? What are the requirements for admission?

HCA is a public school open to ANY student residing in the state of Maine. There are no admissions requirements, but we do have limited space. Please see our Enrollment page for more information.

What is taught?

HCA’s curriculum is college-preparatory and meets the same “Common Core” standards in Math, Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, Health and Physical Education and Fine Arts as do all Maine public middle and high schools.

Where is HCA located?

HCA is located at 9 Ash Point Road, in Harpswell, at the site of the old West Harpswell School.

What are the requirements for teachers and administrative personnel?

All staff members working in Maine’s public charter schools must be fingerprinted through the Maine State Police and undergo criminal background checks. A full-time teacher in a public charter school must meet at least one of the following:

  • Hold a teaching certificate that corresponds with the appropriate grade level and subject area taught.
  • Become certified to teach in Maine with three years of the date of hire.
  • Have an advanced degree, professional certification or unique expertise or experience in the curricular area in which he or she teaches.

Public charter school administrators do not have to be certified.

From where do the students come?

Maine Public Charter schools are open to any student in the state although transportation to the school is limited by a “catchment area” defined in the charter law. HCA students currently come from Harpswell, Brunswick, Bowdoinham, Topsham, Freeport and Bath.

What makes this different from a traditional public school?

While there are many differences, perhaps three are most important: Relationships, Autonomy, and Accountability.

Relationships: Charter schools are smaller and community-based. Small schools are much more likely to foster strong relationships between the adults in the school and the students and between the school and larger community.

Autonomy: Public charter schools have the autonomy to innovate in important ways such as:

  • Curriculum design (e.g., Montessori, Core Knowledge, Expeditionary Learning, Proficiency-based Assessment, STEM focus, Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics)
  • Extended learning time (longer school day and/or year)
  • School cultures with high expectations for all students and adults
  • More structured and disciplined learning environments
  • Integrating the work of the school with the business community and partner organizations
  • Parent engagement structures that help parents support their children
  • Multi-age programs

Accountability: Educators and policy makers who believed that public schools should be held more accountable for student achievement formed the original charter schools. In exchange for accountability, school leaders should be given freedom to do whatever it takes to help students achieve. That idea is the core of the charter school model.

In Maine, a “public charter school is accountable to the terms of the contract, or charter, it negotiates with its authorizer. The charter school operator must adhere to the performance expectations and responsibilities outlined in the contract or risk nonrenewal of the charter after its initial period.”

Does HCA offer sports and clubs?

HCA has clubs and may have intramural programs, especially water-based activities such as sailing and kayaking, in the future. The charter law specifies that students can play interscholastic sports in their district of residence.

What is Project-Based Education?

If traditional education is learning facts and skills, then project-based education is learning where those facts and skills come from. Project-based education relates knowledge and the acquisition of knowledge to real-world activities. Project-based education is often contrasted with “Direct Instruction” or “rote” learning. In practice, HCA is not be exclusively project based – in fact, well thought-out direct instruction is very much a part of our approach. One way to think about it is that the project-based elements provide the over-arching context, relevance and applications for the classroom-based skills and content.