FAIRFIELD — Good news keeps coming for the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences at Good Will-Hinckley.

“We’ve been pretty blessed,” said Glenn Cummings, president and executive director of the school.

Cummings was referring to the biennial budget approved in June by the Maine Legislature that included $860,000 for the school, as well as the charter school legislation signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Paul LePage.

“It’s like the reverend (George Walter Hinckley, founder of Good Will-Hinckley in 1898) asked for divine intervention,” Cummings said. The residential school served at-risk students from its opening until its core operations closed in 2009 because of financial problems.

With LePage’s signature, Maine became the 41st state to allow charter schools — public schools of choice that establish a performance contract detailing their missions, programs, goals, students served, assessments, and ways they measure successes.

The law allows as many as 10 charter schools to be established in the next decade in Maine.

Later this month, Cummings said he’ll make a presentation to the Board of Trustees at Good Will about the possibility of applying for charter school status.

“We’re very interested as it suits our model quite well,” said Cummings. “The board will weigh the benefits and any possible drawbacks. At the pragmatic level, more students would have more options to have an education at Hinckley. If students wanted to come, they would experience fewer barriers.”

Cummings said the board would likely take a formal vote in August on whether to pursue charter school status.

The application, according to the law, must contain the academy’s mission and vision, evidence of need and community support, background on the leadership team, a school calendar, sample daily schedule, class size and structure, curriculum overview, teaching methods, proposals for providing transportation and food service, a financial plan, start-up budgets and fundraising plans.

Cummings said James Banks Sr., chairman of the State Board of Education and a member of the Maine Charter School Commission, indicated that September 2012 would be the earliest a charter school could be operational.

Cummings and other staff members are focused on the academy’s September, which will include 15 to 20 students. The academy has forged superintendents’ agreements with the students’ school districts. Good Will-Hinckley will be paid an agreed-upon per-pupil price by the students’ home districts; the home districts will transport students to the academy.

The academy, which will be Maine’s second magnet school, will offer experiential learning in agriculture, sustainability, forestry, business, alternative energy and the environment on the 600- to 700-acre campus along U.S. Route 201.

The site includes the residential cottages, L.C. Bates Museum and nature trails, as well as frontage on the Kennebec River.

“It was (G.W. Hinckley’s) deeply held belief that nature has a lot to teach us. It’s the best training for (children’s) academic and character development,” said Cummings. “The discipline and belief system and principles — it’s very much going back to its original roots.”

A typical school day will be divided into three blocks — two hours of classroom instruction, two-and-a-half hours of individual and group projects and two hours of classes at Kennebec Valley Community College, job shadowing or interning.

In June, the academy received a boost with the passage of the state’s budget that included $860,000 over two years for Good Will-Hinckley.

“The funding truly makes MeANS a statewide resource by providing funds to cover boarding costs for students beyond central Maine,” wrote Cummings in a press release.

This coming fall, Cummings said the $330,000 in state funding will be used for outreach to attract students, preparing campus cottages for residential students and, perhaps in January, for room and board of students.

In 2012-2013, Cummings said the $530,000 in state funding will be used almost exclusively for students’ room and board. He said the academy’s enrollment goal in 2012-13 is about 25 day students and 25 boarding students.

Paraphrasing LePage, Cummings said the academy’s problem would not be finding kids but having to turn them away.

Cummings said he is also excited about the opportunity to help the local economy by hiring several educators.

“This will be the first time we’ve seen positive job growth since 2009,” he said. “It’s a strong step in returning jobs to the area.”

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]

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