April 13, 2021 50o F Hingham, MA

April 13, 2021 50o F Hingham, MA

Budget concerns delay Hingham school building maintenance program

Hingham Public School budget constraints are delaying several capital investment and maintenance projects.

John W. Ferris Director of Business and Support Services reviewed about two dozen projects planned for the High School, Middle School and four elementary schools with the Capital & Facilities Subcommittee of the Hingham School Committee yesterday. They were scheduled to be completed this year, but will now be postponed.

“A lot of the capital that we had planned for FY 20-21 has been put on hold because of all the COVID-19 spending that we are doing,” said Ferris. “What we want to do is get a picture of where we are (financially) in the spring.”

Delayed Hingham Public School projects include:

  • Repairs to the gym bleachers at the High School to address safety concerns

  • Replace fire sprinkler head at the High School

  • Replace windows and doors at the High School

  • Repair windows and remove asbestos at Plymouth River School

  • Energy efficiency projects throughout the school district

  • Purchase a dump truck for the school district

The pandemic has upended the state education budget, leaving school officials unsure how to plan for coming needs. Although cuts to school budgets have not yet been as severe as originally predicted, the evidence indicates that much more severe challenges lie ahead. Ferris told school committee members that some of the spending on re-opening the schools should be reimbursed by Plymouth County through the CARES Act. ​

In March, the federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Cares) Act, which provided over $2 trillion in economic relief, including $13.2 billion in direct funding for K-12 public education for the first semester of the academic year. Congress has been unable to yet agree on a new deal that includes help for school districts.

“In the spring we hope to address the critical projects such as the sprinkler head replacements at the high school,” said Ferris.

Subcommittee Chair Carlos DaSilva asked Ferris to reconcile which capital investment projects were completed so the committee could prepare the FY 2021-22 capital and facilities budget.

Greg can be reached at greg@hinghamcurrent.com

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School officials take major step toward ‘long overdue’ new Foster Elementary School 

Hingham School Building Committee members voted at their meeting Wednesday on a $1.1 million feasibility study budget for a new Foster Elementary School. School officials will submit the study budget to the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s school building program, a state program that helps school districts pay for renovations and rebuilding projects. It’s an important step towards a major rebuilding of the elementary school, which hasn’t seen an extensive renovation in almost fifty years.

John W. Ferris. Director of Business and Support Services hopes the project will be on the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s December meeting agenda for a vote.

Greg can be reached at greg@hinghamcurrent.com

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School Committee approves new private school for grades 6-12 in South Hingham

During their Monday night meeting, the School Committee unanimously approved the July 1st opening of a new school at 99 Derby Street, Suite 101 in South Hingham. Fusion Academy, which is a private school for grades 6-12, offers “personalized, accredited education” to middle school and high school students who struggle in traditional school settings and says that its “powerful relationships-based, one-to-one teaching changes the lives of our students and their families.”

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jamie LaBillois, whose office oversees the administrative procedures associated with the opening of private schools in Hingham said that after a year of “ongoing dialogue and communication,” an application with a request to operate was received on February 14th. The Community Outreach Subcommittee, which is comprised of Libby Lewiecki, Nes Correnti and Michelle Ayer, was charged with reviewing the school’s application and making a recommendation to the School Committee as a whole which has oversight of approval of private schools in Hingham. The Subcommittee met on May 20th then had at a site visit on June 3rd which is required by School Committee procedures. “Following the site visit and tour,” said Dr. LaBillois, “the Subcommittee were in unanimous agreement to recommend to the full Hingham School Committee the full approval of the operation of Fusion Academy.”

Subcommittee Chair Libby Lewiecki noted that they were very impressed with the school’s application and the site in particular.  “You can see how excited the administration is to provide this opportunity for students in the area,” she said, “and how their program will provide a completely personalized educational experience for every individual that goes to this school.” Libby went on to say, “We were jealous of their per pupil price tag and wondering just what Hingham Public Schools could do with that same amount,” before noting that the Subcommittee would be recommending approval of the opening of Fusion Academy.

After the vote, Chair Michelle Ayer thanked Dr. LaBillois for keeping everyone on task “in the world of social distancing.” She then invited Mike Van Dinther, who works with Fusion Academy at the corporate office, to speak. “I just wanted to say thank you very much for welcoming us,” said Mike, “and we look forward to serving your community.”

School Committee members

Michelle Ayer, Chair: mayer@hinghamschools.org
Carlos DaSilva, Vice Chair: cdasilva@hinghamschools.org
Kerry Ni, Secretary: kni@hinghamschools.org
Ed Schreier: eschreier@hinghamschools.org
Libby Lewiecki: llewiecki@hinghamschools.org
Liza O’Reilly: loreilly@hinghamschools.org
Nes Correnti: ncorrenti@hinghamschools.org

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Child Care Programs Face Challenges During Rollout

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Hingham Childcare Program Gets Creative

Virtual story time.  Virtual circle time.  Virtual yoga.  Even virtual play dates.  These are just some of the innovative activities that are being offered to clients of Pre-School Playmates in Hingham.  “We’re even trying to set up virtual show-and-tell,” said Jay Fleming who owns the school with Maryann Landry.  “It’s all about the social-emotional health of the children, and we have spent hours trying to capture that piece of it remotely.”

Due to Governor Baker’s mandate, childcare programs have been forced to close their doors.  These programs are doing their best to keep the lines of communication open with parents, but Pre-School Playmates recognized that there is also a need for the kids to maintain their relationships with one another.  “They miss their school friends,” said Fleming.  So after one video conferencing session of circle time, the staff decided to keep the call going in order to allow the kids to have some unstructured screen time together.  “It was so cute,” said Fleming.  “They had us all laughing.”

For many families with young children, these are challenging times.  Parents are worried about their health, their jobs, their finances. “And now they have to turn into home-schoolers too,” quipped Fleming.  Many parents are out of their element in this regard.  Add to that the pressure applied through standards set by our culture and through social media to have everything structured – an established schedule, limited screen time, planned meals.  It can be overwhelming.

“We just want them to know that they shouldn’t be so worried,” said Fleming.  “Just have fun!”

Even though they may not be able to verbalize it, this is likely a stressful time for young children too.  So, in addition to offering virtual activities through video conferencing, Pre-School Playmates has boxed up all of their games and toys and made them available as a lending library.  “It was one of the first things we did,” said Fleming.  Families can pick up a box to use for a while and return it when they are done.  “We have a whole process of sanitizing the toys when we get them back,” assured Fleming.

Pre-School Playmates also sends home curriculum packets.  They are optional and are provided only if families want to do them. Emphasis on “want.”  All of the center’s teachers are actively working from home on ways to keep kids engaged.  “They have a loss right now too,” said Fleming.  “At this point in the year, they are so attached to these children.”

One activity the whole school is currently working on is a “kindness rocks” project.  Kids are painting rocks at home and writing inspirational messages on them.  They will bring the rocks in to school when it reopens, and the rocks will be cast into concrete as a permanent display.  This is designed not just to give the kids something fun and uplifting to do.  There’s another, more poignant reason.  “So we have a fond memory of this time,” said Fleming.

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Foster Elementary School windows | Hingham Current photo