FAIRFIELD — Construction is officially underway for a new addition to the state’s oldest Montessori school, as school leaders and officials from the United States Department of Agriculture were on hand Thursday at a groundbreaking ceremony.

The Kennebec Montessori School on 38 Sheridan Drive, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, is working toward completing a new 3,500-square-foot addition, which will allow for more classroom space and accommodate more students.

Head of School Rebecca Green called the addition “a long time coming,” something she and others had “hoped and dreamed for,” and was now finally here.

“This is a tremendous sign of growth for our school,” she said, as well as a sign for growth of Montessori schools in the state.

Montessori schools, which were founded by Maria Montessori, focus on nurturing curiosity and a sense of community in their students.

Tommy Higgins, acting state director for the USDA Rural Development program, said this is a project that falls directly within their community programs area of work. He said the USDA has funded projects at the school in the past, including in 1995 when the organization granted $645,000 towards construction of the school. This addition, which he said would allow for an additional 32 students, was a $938,000 project involving two loans.

“It’s something we do on a regular basis,” he said after the groundbreaking ceremony.

The new addition will house upper level students, and the funding will be paid back at a low interest rate over the next 40 years. The hope is to have the new addition, designed by Phi Architects in Rockport, ready for occupancy in the winter.

The current school building, designed by architect Paul Augusten, was built in 1995. The school was once located in the Lutheran Church on Cool Street in Waterville and later moved to the Pleasant Street Methodist Church in Waterville and then to the St. John school in Winslow.

Higgins said the addition will allow for expanding learning opportunities for students, as well as an opportunity to “build up rural Maine communities from the ground up.”

Within the past decade, he said the USDA Rural Development program has invested nearly $23 million in Maine communities.

Pamela Thompson, board chair at the school, said the board was also kicking off a new fundraising campaign. She challenged everyone interested in continuing to develop the school to tell four of their friends to invest in the school to raise “$40,000 in 40 days.” Thompson, who joined the board in 2013 and also sent her two sons to a Montessori school, said if each person asked four friends to donate, they could raise the funds. They were looking to raise $150,000 and have already raised half that.

“I think we can do it,” Thompson said and added, “We’re excited about the energy.”

With representatives from Sen. Angus King, Sen Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin in attendance, students at the school officially broke ground at the school right around noon Thursday.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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