Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Education

April 25, 2013

A gym of its own

St. Augustine looks to centennial year with major expansion

The coming year stands to be a monumental one for St. Augustine School.

In advance of its centennial next year, the private Catholic school for grades kindergarten through eight will undergo one of its largest campus upgrades ever with the construction of a 6,915-square-foot gymnasium.

School officials say the Centennial Gymnasium is a much-needed upgrade for the campus on Central Street, which serves an estimated 400 area families.

The $1.9 million project will give St. Augustine’s students their first gym in the school’s history.

Currently, the school is forced to lease a large room from the Knights of Columbus on Brook Street to accommodate gym classes and also taps Andover High School’s facilities for home basketball games.

“I’ve been here for 35 years as of September, and even before that, (the gym) has always been the piece of the package that we’re missing,” Principal Paula O’Dea said. “I think it’s been something we’ve been waiting for forever.”

The Planning Board earlier this month approved plans for the gym, solidifying the designs and leaving fundraising as the only remaining barrier before construction begins, according to Rev. Peter Gori, pastor of St. Augustine’s.

About $700,000 has been raised so far for the project, Gori said.

The gym will be built on what’s now a paved area behind the school. It will be the largest addition to the school since the mid-1960s, when an entire wing was added to the building, Gori said.

O’Dea said the school has found ways over the years to live without a gym. But she said the addition of a full gym will be a huge boost for the school.

The current space at the Knights of Columbus is “just a big room that’s not adequate anymore,” O’Dea said.

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