The Hingham public schools are negotiating with the Archdiocese of Boston to use a closed Catholic school in Weymouth for satellite classroom space.
Hingham School Superintendent Paul Austin said the district is exploring the feasibility of moving some classes from Foster Elementary School into St. Jerome School in Weymouth, which closed in July.
“Our target date was after the winter break to have some students in there,” Austin said in a phone interview, adding that the most likely scenario was having younger students make the move.
St. Jerome School, which is located on Route 3Ain Weymouth, and Foster Elementary, located in the Crow Point neighborhood of Hingham, are slightly more than 2 miles apart.
Archdiocese spokesman Terrence Donilon said that as of early November, there was no formal agreement on leasing St. Jerome to the Hingham schools. Austin also stressed that “we are still in the process of discussing it” and details about cost and logistics were not known.
But Austin said that to get elementary students back full time during the COVID-19 pandemic, more space was needed at Foster, which opened in 1951 and is in the pipeline to get state money to be replaced because of its poor condition. Austin said that about eight classrooms at Foster could not be used during the pandemic because of inadequate ventilation and physical layout.
One of four elementary schools in Hingham, Foster has about 480 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
St. Jerome has eight full-size classrooms in a three-story building, which had accommodated about 160 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade last school year, according to archdiocese data.
The archdiocese closed the school in July, saying that the coronavirus pandemic had made a “devastating impact” on enrollment and the school’s finances.
Parents and staff fought, unsuccessfully, to keep St. Jerome open – arguing that the school’s financial picture was far healthier than the archdiocese depicted.
“One of the reasons we wanted St. Jerome School to remain open is because of the many physical improvement projects made to the school over the last several years, including new windows, additional classrooms, a boiler, fresh-air exchange ventilation, a water filtration system, security cameras, and many more features that make the property so attractive,” said Sue Hannan, who was the school’s director of development and admissions for six years.
Mary McGurran, a parent active in the effort to keep St. Jerome School open, said in an e-mail that it was upsetting to learn that Hingham schools might use the building.
“As a parent of four St. Jerome School students, it is difficult and painful to come to grips with the fact that all that we, as devout school and parish families, worked so hard for and financed through our tuition and fundraising will be utilized by other children, but not our own,” McGurran said. “As a Catholic, it is also distressing that this building will not be serving the purpose for which it was built — teaching the Catholic faith to children.”
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.