EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

April 21, 2013

St. Augustine gym moves forward, fundraising continues

ANDOVER — Since it first opened nearly a century ago, the St. Augustine School hasn’t had a suitable gymnasium for its kindergarten-through-eighth grade student population.

Just in time for the school’s centennial, that is going to change.

Fundraising efforts are under way for a $1.9 million, 6,915 square foot gymnasium, to be built behind the private Catholic school’s only building.

The “Centennial Gymnasium” was approved by the Planning Board last Tuesday, April 9, solidifying the designs and leaving fundraising as the only barrier behind building the gym, according to Pastor Peter Gori.

The construction of the gym reflects the biggest addition to the school since the mid ‘60s, when an entire wing was added to the building, Gori said.

Since the school was first opened in 1914, there hasn’t been a dedicated gym space. In recent decades, the school has leased space from the Knights of Columbus on Brook Street, according to Gori.

The school has lived within its space, Principal Paula O’Dea said, but the change to a full facility will be a huge boost for the school.

“[The current facility] is just a big room that’s not adequate anymore,” she said. “Only our grades 1 through 8 travel down there. The kindergarten has to do it in the cafeteria.”

“It works, but it’s definitely not adequate,” she said.

With the gym, the school will also be able to hold after school clubs and nightly activities, according to O’Dea.

With membership in the Merrimack Valley Catholic Basketball League, the school could also have home games on its own turf instead of leasing space at the Andover High School field house, O’Dea said.

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

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