Budget concerns delay Hingham school building maintenance program

By: Greg Lane, Hingham Current Staff, October 28, 2020    
The front of William L. Foster School on Downer Avenue in the Crow Point neighborhood | Hingham Current photo

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.