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SCARBOROUGH, Maine (NECN) -- Maine's 7th through 12 graders will have a new schooling option next September. On Monday, the Maine Charter School Commission voted unanimously to green-light the "Maine Connections Academy" - the state's first "virtual" school.

As a father of three young children, Nick McGee of Scarborough thinks a lot about education. "If the traditional public schools aren't working where do you turn? You could do home schooling or you could go to a private school," said McGee.

Starting in the fall of 2014 some 250 students will have another publicly-funded option. The Maine Connections Academy, run by a non-profit board, has contracted with "Connections Learning" of Baltimore, MD, a for-profit company that runs virtual schools in more than 20 states.

They will contract with the company to provide technology, the laptops, the software and the curriculum. The students will schooled at home with a learning coach - usually a parent - under the guidance of certified teachers.

The board plans to hire 8 teachers to start, along with some support staff and a principal. They'll be based out of a shared building in Scarborough. teaching kids across the state remotely.

But not all educators give virtual schooling a passing grade. Among them, The Maine Education Association which represents some 24,000 teachers.

"It's the MEA's belief that children are best educated in the public schools because they're educated with their peers surrounded by many caring adults -things they won't get in virtual school," said Lois Kilby-Chesley, MEA President.

After looking into 11 virtual schools across the country, the MEA released a report giving them an "F" grade. "Our concern is that you get a corporate set up that takes the money and runs with no accountability at all to the taxpayers," said Kilby-Chesley.

But supporters say where the money ends up is less important than whether a child is getting the education he/she needs.
"We never advertised this as taking over the public school system," said McGee. "This is to help a certain segment that needs something different."

Starting next september, they'll have that choice.

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