State officials agreed Wednesday to help fund the replacement of Augusta’s Lillian P. Hussey Elementary School. The elementary school — one of four in the city’s public school system — is ranked as the No. 9 Maine school most in need of major renovations or replacement. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — After a long wait, state officials have agreed to help fund the construction of two public elementary schools in Augusta and Pittsfield.

The State Board of Education on Wednesday approved replacing or majorly renovating the Manson Park School in Pittsfield and the Lillian P. Hussey School in Augusta through Maine’s Major Capital School Construction program.

The highly competitive funding program helps districts across the state address health and safety issues in old school buildings that require major investments to fix, and that towns and cities often cannot afford to finance on their own.

Projects are ranked every seven years in order of greatest need. The condition of facilities, size and makeup of the student population and the curriculum and services offered to students all factor into the rankings.

Then, starting at the top of the list, the State Board funds as many as it can without exceeding Maine’s yearly school construction debt limit. That limit is $150 million for the 2024 fiscal year that began July 1.

Maine School Administrative District 53, which includes the Manson Park School, now has until 2025 to pick a site and submit a concept plan to the state for its project, and the Augusta School Department has until 2026.


The schools were ranked No. 8 and No. 9, respectively, in the last school construction rating cycle in 2017, and they are the last ones to be funded before a new cycle begins next year.

A total of 74 projects were submitted for consideration in 2017, and the first seven — including primary and middle schools in Fairfield, Skowhegan, Rumford and South Paris — have already been approved.

“There is a lot of work to be done with the state — the state will be a partner,” Superintendent Jim Anastasio said at this week’s Augusta Board of Education meeting, hours after the state board met. “(The new school) is based on the Hussey School, but that doesn’t mean it will be the Hussey School.”

Anastasio said community members, city officials and school staff will be able to give their input throughout the process of designing a new elementary school.

First, the Augusta- and Pittsfield-based districts must get the state school board’s approval for the locations of their new schools.

Then, they will have to present a concept plan that includes a projected budget to the state board and to the public. If the board approves the concept, the district will need the backing of local voters in a referendum to proceed with drafting designs and securing final funding approval by the commissioner of the Department of Education.


The two central Maine districts have waited over 12 years for their projects to be selected, having each applied to the 2010-11 and 2017-18 cycles.

Lillian P. Hussey School was built in 1954 and serves students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Manson Park School was built in 1945 and serves prekindergarten and kindergarten students.

MSAD 53 applied for projects at two of its other schools, Vickery Elementary School and Warsaw Middle School, said Superintendent Sharon Littlefield, who declined to comment further. Those schools placed Nos. 11 and 54 on the list, respectively, and will not be funded this cycle.

Chair of the State Board of Education, Fern Desjardins said that when the new cycle opens up again next year, she expects there will be more applicants than the current 74. 

Scott Brown, director of school facilities for the Maine Department of Education, said the state was not able to fund as many projects this cycle as it did in the 2010 cycle because construction costs have increased.

“There are 74 applicants on the list, currently, so if you look at it, usually around nine to 12 are funded, so around 28, almost 30%. So 30% (of schools) on the list have been addressed. That’s pretty significant, but I would say that the cost of projects has recently, and will continue to, limit the amount of projects,” Brown said.


In the 13 years since Augusta submitted its first request to replace Hussey school, discussion around what to do with the school has varied.

In 2021, the Board of Education hosted a community forum about what the future of the building could look like, and this past June, Anastasio said that if the district did not get state funding to build a new school, it might have to move forward with a new plan because there is not enough space in existing buildings for more students. 

There is no clear timeline on when the school districts will set up meetings with their communities to shape a vision and determine next steps, but Augusta officials are aware of the looming 2026 deadline to submit its concept plan.

“It sounds like a lot of time away, but it’s not that far away — it will go quickly,” Anastasio said.

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