AUGUSTA Nearly 400 Maine students are ready to start the school year in an environment that is still relatively new for the state of Maine: a public charter school. Maine's five public charter schools will welcome students for the first day of school over the next eight days, welcoming students from pre-K through high school seniors.

Public charter schools are tuition-free and open to any student living in the state of Maine. If more applications are received than slots available for students, a random lottery is held to determine student enrollment at each school. Public charter schools offer innovative programs and provide an alternative for students who find that traditional public school programs are unable to meet their needs.

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