This architectural rendering shows the $75 million consolidated elementary school that’s planned for Skowhegan. School district residents voted in favor of the construction plan in June. The state will cover about 95% of the cost to build the school. It was announced over the weekend that $1.6 million has been raised for an early learning center that will be part of the school campus. Image courtesy of Stephen Blatt Architects

SKOWHEGAN — An early learning center that’s scheduled to open in 2025 near the site of a new elementary school on Heselton Street has received a $1.6 million boost in fundraising.

Sam Hight, chairman of a committee that led the fundraising effort, announced over the weekend that the center, to be operated by Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, will serve children from birth through grade five and will be the first of its kind in the state, according to a news release from KVCAP.

“The success of any community is built on the success of its children and families,” Hight said at a campaign kickoff event held Saturday at Bigelow Brewing Co. “By focusing on ages zero to 5 — the most important ages in brain development — this initiative builds the foundation for learning.”

The center will be built as part of the $75 million elementary school in Maine School Administrative District 54, to be constructed near the Margaret Chase Smith School off Heselton Street. The new school is expected to house 850 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade, consolidating three existing elementary schools in Skowhegan and some of Canaan Elementary School. MSAD 54 serves students in Skowhegan, Smithfield, Mercer, Canaan, Cornville and Norridgewock.

Voters in June approved plans for the new elementary school. Officials are expecting to break ground on the site some time next year, with the plan to open the school in fall 2025. Both the North Elementary and Margaret Chase Smith schools will remain open during construction of the school, but will be demolished once it is completed, according to plans. The district’s bus garage at the Margaret Chase Smith School will be moved to the North Elementary property on Jewett Street.

The state will cover just more than 94% of the cost to build the consolidated school. The district hired Portland-based Stephen Blatt Architects to lead the project, which is the same firm that worked to build Skowhegan Area Middle School in 2003 and Mill Stream Elementary School in Norridgewock in 2008.


The Hight family is leading the fundraising for the early learning center with a $500,000 gift, Sam Hight, of the Hight Family of Dealerships, said Saturday. He said that leading pledges are from the Bill & Joan Alfond Foundation, for $500,000; $250,000 from the Skowhegan Savings foundation; $100,000 from Ware-Butler Building Supply; $50,000 from Don Skillings State Farm; and $50,000 from the Damon family.

“Skowhegan Savings Bank is pleased to help support this exciting initiative in Somerset County,” said David Cyr, president and CEO of the bank. “It aligns well with the bank’s mission to make our communities a better place to live and work. Additionally, our foundation’s focus on workforce development makes this a perfect initiative for us to support. Getting these additional resources to the next generation at an early age will help them excel and flourish throughout life.”

The early childhood wing of the school will use the philosophies of Educare in offering child care and pre-kindergarten education for 160 students, according to the news release.

Educare Central Maine, which has been in Waterville 10 years, is a partnership between KVCAP, Waterville Public Schools, Buffet Early Childhood Fund and the Bill & Joan Alfond Foundation. It operates on the premise that a child’s cognitive, physical, social, emotional and literacy-language development occurs in the first few years of life and must be built on positive interactions with peers and adults.

The early childhood wing at the new Skowhegan school will add 15 jobs to the region, according to the news release. The center will work to instill the importance of education to children at a young age and provide crucial workforce development, addressing the poverty cycle in Somerset County, it said.

“KVCAP has been providing services to families in the Skowhegan community for 57 years,” Suzanne Walsh, CEO of KVCAP, said in the release. “We are proud to be part of this new school, in partnership with SAD 54, and to have the opportunity to support more children during their first five years of learning as well as to support parents and families as they advance their own education, workforce and housing goals.”

Besides Hight, members of the fundraising committee are Walsh, who is a member of the board of directors for Educare Central Maine; campaign director Erin Merrill, who also is Educare’s development director; Tracye Fortin, executive director and chief operating officer for KVCAP Child & Family Services; Gail Gibson; Chelsey Carrier; Rich St. Pierre; Michael Lambke; and Jon Moody, superintendent of MSAD 54.

Those wanting to learn more about the campaign, including how to donate, may visit

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