Last week, news came out that the soon-to-open charter school Baxter Academy for Technology and Science had failed to gain an occupancy permit following an Aug. 12 inspection.
Here’s an excerpt from a piece about the situation written last week by BDN State House Bureau Chief Christopher Cousins:
According to a document provided by the city, many of the outstanding issues have to do with fire safety. A number of doors that are not rated to withstand fire will have to be replaced, and there are some areas where walls need to be upgraded to stop fire. In addition, the school installed a suspended ceiling before the inspection and some of the tiles need to be removed so inspectors can see the pipes, wires and machinery above them. Also for fire safety, the building’s 54 York St. address needs to be posted outside and some stairway handrails need upgrades.
Jeff Levine, Portland’s planning director, said the school also needs to meet conditions in its site plan approval from the city’s planning board, including some improvements to crosswalks and sidewalks.
While the inspection hurdles are certainly making it a close cut, school officials have maintained that they expect to be ready to open school on time Sept. 4.
Baxter Academy is one of five publicly funded charter schools to have been approved by the Maine Charter School Commission under the 2011 law legalizing the institutions.
The school has been no stranger to controversy in the year prior to its scheduled opening. Academy leaders faced vocal opposition from Portland Mayor Michael Brennan while seeking commission approval to open, then battled with the school’s founding executive director over ownership of the website and other documentation after a messy breakup in March.
Most recently, Baxter Academy drew the ire of Maine Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, by hosting the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center for an event earlier this summer. Alfond denounced the event as sign of what he feared was the academy’s alignment with right-wing philosophies, blasted the new school, and then was blasted himself by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.