Isaiah Clements of Lewiston, left, and Head of School Heather King chat in a hallway Aug. 29 at the Maine Arts Academy in Augusta. The free public high school for the arts has received a $93,000 federal grant to improve safety measures at the building it moved into earlier this year. The school on Cony Road was previously a health care facility. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — The Maine Arts Academy will get nearly $100,000 in federal school violence prevention funding to help improve safety at the building it recently bought in Augusta.

Last year, the formerly Sidney-based free public charter high school purchased the old Maine Veterans’ Home facility on Cony Road in Augusta, moving in before the start of this school year.

While it does already have an emergency plan in place, Maine Arts Academy officials said they plan to use the federal grant funds to rewrite their emergency plan for the new, repurposed facility and include their neighbors as well as Augusta and state police in their planning.

The Maine Arts Academy moved into the former Maine Veterans Homes facility on Cony Road in Augusta this year. A $93,000 federal grant will help the charter school for the arts improve safety measures. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

“This grant is an opportunity for us to look at the new building and reassess our safety plan,” said Heather King, head of the 240-student academy. “We just moved in here, and it’s a 70,000-square-foot building, so rewriting our plan so it includes community members is important.”

The grant funds will also be used to bring in safety experts to train staff at the school and make physical, safety-related changes, such as adding motion sensors, key-card locking doors and an intercom and automatic door system to make for easier access at its main entrance, which is locked during the school day and has to be manually unlocked to let someone in.

“We’re just making our building a lot more secure,” King said of the physical improvements planned. She said work will begin as soon as officials receive the money.


The grant is timely, coming on the heels of the recent mass shooting in Lewiston, an event which prompted the Maine Arts Academy and other Maine schools to close for a couple of days. As classes resumed, the academy held an online meeting for students and parents regarding safety protocols and supports available.

King said the academy, which draws students from across the state, has about 15 students, as well as staff, from the Lewiston and Androscoggin County area.

“We just wanted to make everybody feel safe, and reassure families we’re doing everything we can in our school to keep students safe,” King said of the meeting.

The free public high school for the arts enrolls about 245 students from 85 municipalities.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden announced the grant award Tuesday, as part of $1.2 million in federal grant funding recently awarded within Maine’s 2nd Congressional District from the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Police Services, or COPS.

Maine Arts Academy and Regional School Unit 26 in Orono were awarded a total of $590,000 from the School Violence Prevention Program, with the Augusta-based Maine Arts Academy getting just over $93,000 of those funds.

The funding can be used, according to a news release from Golden, on a variety of school safety measures including specialized training for students and staff, deterrence measures such as locks and lighting and coordination with law enforcement.

Grant funds from the COPS office totaling $625,000 were also awarded to Franklin and Somerset counties, and the towns of Greenville and Wilton, to help them hire and retain officers amidst Maine and national public safety worker shortages.

“These grants from the COPS office will help address urgent officer shortages across the state, improve response times during emergencies, and put a special emphasis on preventing violence in schools before it happen,” Golden said in a statement.

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