“Only our grades 1 through 8 travel down there,” she said. “The kindergarten has to do (gym) in the cafeteria.”
The leased space is also inconvenient, forcing students to walk up a portion of Central Street and then down about half of Brook Street to attend physical education classes. The trip has become a regular part of life at the school, O’Dea said. However, it also represents a “growing risk every day” for students, with up to 120 of them making the trek daily, Pastor Peter Gori said.
With its own gym, St. Augustine’s also will be able to host after-school clubs and evening activities in the space as well as play its home games within the Merrimack Valley Catholic Basketball League, according to O’Dea.
The project’s official groundbreaking is targeted for July, Gori said, and the work will take about eight months to complete.
To proceed with the project, the parish last December paid $675,000 to purchase property to the south of the school The .663-acre lot contains a four-bedroom, three-bathroom home, Gori said.
For now, the parish plans on leasing the house for residential use as it moves forward with the gym construction, according to Gori. While the future plans for the house following the construction have not yet been determined, Gori said school officials are dreaming of the possibilities.
“One of our long-range plans is to bring the early-education program onto the main campus,” he said. “Right now, that’s housed in two halls below St. Augustine’s Church on Essex Street.”
The parish also plans to update its staff parking, which currently consists of 20 parallel parking spaces to the back of the school, abutting the residential property it now owns, Gori said.
With a little bit of cash in the project dedicated to parking, the school will expand the area to roughly 40 horizontal spaces, according to Gori.