SKOWHEGAN — Congressional spending passed last week is likely to mean Maine School Administrative District 54’s new $75 million consolidated elementary school and early childhood education facility will be built at no cost to local taxpayers.

Congress approved $1.9 million for the early childhood wing of the new Margaret Chase Smith Community School in Skowhegan. The appropriation is part of the partial 2024 government funding package signed into law Saturday, Rep. Jared Golden’s office announced Wednesday in a statement to the news media.

The federal money adds to $3 million in local fundraising led by the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, a goal that was hit earlier this year after an 18-month effort, organizers said in an announcement last week.

Together, the nearly $5 million in funding will cover the construction of a $4.4 million early childhood wing, which district leaders said will be the first of its kind in the region.

An architectural rendering of the $75 million consolidated elementary school planned for Skowhegan. It is scheduled to open for the 2025-26 school year. Image courtesy of Stephen Blatt Architects

The state is paying for most of the $75 million school, which will bring three of MSAD 54’s elementary schools into one building at 40 Heselton St., but not the early childhood education facility.

“Education, especially early education, can help people overcome almost all adversity,” Golden, D-2nd District, said in the statement. “This project will support ongoing work in the region to modernize educational facilities after years of instructional challenges caused by an aging infrastructure that can’t be expected to meet the community’s needs.”


Construction began last summer, and the school remains on track to open for the 2025-26 school year. A video published by the school district in February shows construction progressing according to plan.

When complete, the school is to enroll 800 students — from 6 weeks old through fifth grade — from the district’s six towns: Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield.

By bringing multiple schools under one roof, the district will have more continuity in student’s education, according to officials. The new school also replaces aging, cramped facilities at other buildings.

The early childhood wing is expected to support the district’s efforts to expand daily, universal, full-day prekindergarten through its partnership with KVCAP, fundraising organizers said. Plans include four infant and toddler classrooms and eight preschool classrooms.

“Including infants and toddlers in the new school construction is an investment that will pay off in the short term and in the long run,” Sam Hight, a local business owner who chaired the local fundraising committee, said in a statement. “This is how you build a strong economy. These are our future workers and community members.”

Students from the Somerset Career & Technical Center who are studying early childhood education also will be housed at the school, allowing them to get practical experience, according to this week’s announcement.


KVCAP is expected to operate the early childhood center in partnership with the district, using its Educare Central Maine model. Of the $3 million raised locally, $2.5 million is to go toward construction and $500,000 toward training and assistance from the Educare program.

“This project ultimately highlights how a community can address educational access and opportunity, altering the poverty cycle in rural Maine,” Suzanne Walsh, CEO of KVCAP, said in a statement.

Fundraising through KVCAP’s Building Better Beginnings campaign is expected to continue, with the goal to further fund operations at the new facility.

“The $3 million demonstrates commitment to a program, but it is only the beginning,” Hight said. “The true success will rely on the ongoing support for quality operations that we have developed.”

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