An aerial photo from a drone shows the former Maine Veteran’s Home property in Augusta that will be used as a new site for the Maine Arts Academy, a charter school whose current location is in Sidney. Photo courtesy of Maine Arts Academy

AUGUSTA — Heather King said when searching a new spot for the Maine Arts Academy, it was important to her and the students that they find a place not far away from their current location in Sidney.

They lucked out. The charter school has bought the former Maine Veteran’s Home property for $3.25 million — 16 miles from their current site — and will move into the space in time for the next school year.

The academy’s lease at the location in Sidney at the Snow Pond Center for the Arts is up in June and with the school growing by substantial numbers each year, Superintendent King said they had to find more room to accommodate the growing number of students.

“We don’t have enough space out there,” King said. “We have grown every year since we have been open.”

According to King, the school has only grown in the seven years she has been the head of school, even during the pandemic. The 2021-2022 school year had 213 students and the current school year has 225 students. The Maine Charter School Commission expects the 2023-2024 school year to have about 250 students.

The bigger building allows the high school to grow and attract more students with its centralized location, size accommodations and new offerings, such as the possibility to offer summer camps for middle and high schoolers.


“We looked at other spaces that weren’t quite as big,” King said. “We had to look for enough space to do the arts, and we need large spaces with our type of school. We need space for dance which is big, theater and guitar are larger, and we have piano lab with a bunch of pianos and keyboards.”

The academy bought the former Maine Veteran’s Home for $3.25 million at the beginning of January, using two loans from Kennebec Savings Bank and the other from the USDA. The funding was approved by Maine Charter School Commission at a Nov. 8, 2022, business meeting.

If any changes are made to the charter school’s contract regarding size or space, the contract has to be amended. The commission approved the amendment and the other formality, which is to submit a formal request to incur the debt.

Another loan for the projected amount of $500,000 for the renovation will be taken out and construction is expected to take about six months. King said the space is large enough to house the students and have class while the renovations are going on and at this time there is no start date for when the construction will begin.

Maine Arts Academy will make the projected $3,587,000 debt payments by meeting the expected growth targets that the charter school is projected to hit based on their new space. In their previous space, the academy didn’t have the ability to do after-school or summer programs.

The academy will pay the debt back through grants, a GoFundMe fundraiser, tuition reimbursement and additional income the school receives.


Students at the Maine Arts Academy choose a major and can study dance, art, theater and film among other options. Additionally, the school offers early college credited courses through partnerships with the University of Maine, Colby College in Waterville and Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield.

“We have a traditional college preparatory education with arts classes,” King said. “They might go to English (class), then to dance, or to math, then another dance class. After freshman year, which is an exploratory year with the arts, at the end, they choose a major and then they are immersed in the major for three years (until they graduate).”

The Augusta Planning Board approved the school’s move to the former veteran’s home in October in a vote of 5-0. Some members of the community voiced concern about the move brining traffic to the area, but one planning board member said it would “help our downtown” to have the school in the proximity of the downtown and University of Maine at Augusta.

The charter school is one of 10 in the state and focuses on the arts, while the other charter schools across the state offer their own focus, such as the Maine Academy for Natural Sciences, the Baxter Academy for Technology & Science and other charter schools that don’t offer a focus offer distanced and online learning.

The interim executive director of the Maine Charter School Commission, Lana Ewing, said Maine Arts Academy is “in the middle” for size in comparison to the state’s other schools, with the smallest at 102 and the largest at 466. Students from all areas of the state attend, from Farmington to Brunswick, the school serves 80 communities across the state.

“The short answer of it is that we are thrilled to grow the program and offer additional programming in the summer,” Ewing said.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story