A Historic Independent School

Thornton Academy is a historic independent school educating students in grades six through twelve. We are co-educational and non-sectarian. The majority of our students are day students from the towns of Saco, Dayton, Arundel, and a dozen other towns in southern Maine. They are joined by students from over 20 different countries who live in dormitories on campus or in the homes of local families.

Founded in 1811, Thornton Academy is one of the nation’s oldest independent schools. Originally named Saco Academy, the name was soon changed to Thornton Academy by the Board of Trustees in honor of Thomas Thornton, one of the Academy’s earliest and most generous benefactors. 

In the early days of the Academy, students attended from nearby towns and from around New England. When publicly-funded, mandatory education became law in the late 1800s, Thornton Academy’s Board of Trustees contracted with local communities – those that lacked schools beyond grade eight – to provide high school education for their children. Much later, in 2006, Thornton Academy expanded and built a middle school for grades six, seven, and eight.

Throughout its history, Thornton Academy has welcomed and educated students from near and far – through public contract and private admission.

As an independent school, Thornton Academy is governed by a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees and operates independently of local school boards and municipalities. 

Thornton Academy is accredited by the New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC), and adheres to the rigorous standards of NEASC’s Commission on Independent Schools, considered the gold standard of quality assurance.

The Academy is independently financed through tuition (both private & public) and through fund raising. 

As an independent school, Thornton receives no state or local tax funds to build or maintain the campus. All capital projects at Thornton Academy are supported by the generosity of our parents, alumni, and friends. For example, from 2013-2014, Thornton Academy renovated and relocated the library and dance studio, built a new media center and engineering lab, as well as refurbished three classrooms -- all with private funding. The 2015-16 school year opened with a new STEM Center expansion of the Scammon Building, featuring state-of-the-art AP Biology and AP Chemistry classrooms. 

Thornton Academy’s independence provides the autonomy to innovate, while remaining true to our traditions, values, and mission of preparing students for a changing world.


Watch a quick overview of Thornton Academy's history in the video below. 

Thornton Academy
438 Main Street Saco 04072 20854
(207) 282-3361
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