On April 15, 2016, the Minnesota Department of Education approved a kindergarten through sixth grade charter school in Marine on St. Croix. 

The Marine Area Community School is slated to open in the fall of 2017, enrolling up to 175 students.

Called the Marine Area Community School, the charter's founders have outlined its focus on the environment, arts, history and civic involvement. 

Charter schools are independent public schools. Like public schools, they employ licensed teachers and do not charge tuition.

The foundational curriculum will align with Stillwater Area Public Schools to allow a smooth transition to middle school.

“Although the Marine Area Community School is technically separate from Stillwater Area Public Schools, we hope the district collaborates with us so that our families will feel as if they are Ponies. We continue to be in conversation with their administration and are committed to partnership,” stated Kristina Smitten, a founding member of the charter.

The founders have expressed hope in leasing the current Marine Elementary School building, but will find another space if the district is unwilling or unable to lease the space. 

A recent 18-month moratorium on selling or repurposing the building, put in place by the City of Marine, could potentially influence the district in favor of such a lease (see related story, page 5).

The approval of the charter is a big step in the roughly two-year process of opening a charter school, for which plans began taking shape last summer and fall.

“We are very excited about the approval,” said Lisa White, a founding member of the charter. "For the past 161 years, the community has supported a school in Marine. We will have local control over decisions and be able to more fully embrace our community resources."

As a non-district public school, charter schools benefit from state general education funding but cannot levy or bond for taxes. 

Similar to a district school, an elected board will make decisions on behalf of the school.

Founding team members include Jon Dettmann, Lisa Dochniak, Mayor Glen Mills, Kristina Smitten and Lisa White. 

The authorizer for the Marine Area Community School is the Minnesota Guild.

A community meeting will be held in May to provide more information and identify areas where the community can participate in shaping the new school and contribute to its success.

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