The Ecology Learning Center charter school, the 10th and final one in the state, had a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 20 at its new location in the former Unity Foundation building at 230 Main St., which was attended by over 50 people. After the public was finished touring the school, people enjoyed Stone Fox Farm Creamery ice cream at the Field of Dreams park.

Many of the school’s students attended the event and one student was chosen at random to cut the symbolic ribbon. School Board Chairman Robin Chernow said it was a good sign to see so many students at the event before school starts.

“It shows me that there’s a lot of interest in this project, the fact that students would show up in the summer,” she said.

She said the school board found a location and raised funds for the building in a matter of months with a team of people and the community of Unity always pushing the project forward, even through unexpected obstacles.

“It’s been a resilient team to have a lead on a building and have circumstances change … but every time the community has showed up and helped work to keep the project going,” she said.

The school will admit 48 freshmen and sophomore students for its first school year starting Sept. 1. It will increase its student body for the next two years until the school reaches maximum capacity for all four high school classes at 96 students, with roughly 24 in each grade.

The school is tuition-free and will work with Regional School Unit 3 for bus transportation, special education and some school nutrition initiatives to reduce the monetary loss the district could suffer from having a charter school open.

The building’s close proximity to parks and other resources made it an ideal location for the school, according to Chernow. The school has four classrooms and will offer traditional classroom instruction in the morning but project-based interdisciplinary courses in the afternoon with more of an emphasis on outdoor, hands-on instruction. The school currently has a faculty of eight teachers.

There were speakers at the event from the Unity Foundation, the school’s nonprofit and Bangor Savings Bank, which donated $3,000 toward the purchase of the building. The school raised $100,011 from 200 donors, $11 above its capital campaign goal as of that day, but the school is still accepting donations.

Bangor Savings Branch Manager David Balicki, who is also on the school’s fundraising board, said the bank was glad to help the school reach its fundraising goals.

“Bangor Savings Bank is pleased to support local initiatives like ELC through grants and sponsorship assisting the school In exceeding its capital campaign goal,” he said in an email.

Unity Foundation Chairman Larry Sterrs credited the nonprofit's founders with making the project possible.

“None of this would have been possible without the philanthropy of Bert and Coral Clifford,” he said.

As previously reported, Unity Foundation was begun in 2000 by Bert and Coral Clifford, longtime Unity residents dedicated to improving the viability of their town. Firm believers in providing incentives and support for economic development and civic improvement, they commissioned construction of the building as headquarters for the foundation’s work.

Unity Foundation will continue to rent office space in the building for up to a year until it can find a new office location. Sterrs said the foundation decided to sell the building because it is too much space for its operations currently.