FAIRFIELD — Maine’s first two charter schools opened to students Monday, providing new educational opportunities for about 100 children.

The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences at Good Will-Hinckley in Fairfield and the Cornville Regional Charter School became the first charter schools in Maine to hold classes.

The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences has 46 students from 27 school districts. In Cornville, the charter school has nearly 60 students.

Gov. Paul LePage said the schools are giving students more choices, and that more choices will help to meet the needs of Maine students.

“For over a year, the governor and I have been saying we must do something different because what we’ve been doing has not been working,” said Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen, who spoke in Fairfield. “Public charter schools are an important part of an effort to give families and students more choices, and to foster more innovation in Maine schools.”

Charter schools are funded with state dollars but operate independently of local school boards, offering alternative school choices for students.

School officials signed five-year deals with the state charter commission on July 31.

In Fairfield, 27 of the 46 students live in four cottages on campus. The other 19 commute to school.

At a ceremony Monday marking the first day of school, the Harold Alfond Foundation philanthropic organization announced that it is contributing $1 million to Good Will-Hinckley’s restricted endowment to help defray the cost of boarding students.

“We are proud to be home to the first charter school in Maine because it represents a new chapter in the educational opportunities that are available to kids across the state who haven’t fared as well as they should in traditional classroom settings,” said Glenn Cummings, Good Will-Hinckley’s president and executive director.

In Cornville, the opening was more low key.

The day started with a group of students raising the U.S. flag that was saved when the school ended its run as a traditional public school two years ago.

After attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance, the students lowered the flag and raised a new one to represent the new beginning.

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