SPECIAL COVERAGE ON THE CORONAVIRUS
Key Appointment to Foster School Building Committee
By Greg Lane, Hingham Current Staff Posted July 13, 2020
William L. Foster Elementary School on Downer Street. [Hingham Current News File Photos / Greg Lane]
Last Wednesday, the School Committee voted to add Michelle Ayer to the Foster School Building Committee. Ayer, who was recently reelected to School Committee, served as Chair from 2018-2020. She also chaired the Special Education Subcommittee, a committee that she asked to be part of after her first election in 2017.
School Committee member Liza O’Reilly pointed out the benefits to the School Committee of having Ayer on the subcommittee. “I think that it’s great that Michelle wants to do this and that she is now on the committee for three years, which hopefully will take us into the project launching,” she said. “The continuity should be very helpful to us.”
In her role as liaison to the Foster School Building Committee, Ayer will work with other members to oversee the design and build of the elementary school. Residents in the neighborhoods served by the school would like to see the committee re-evaluate the physical design aspects of the building and include changes because of the evolution of education since the project was first proposed a few years ago, especially as a result of COVID-19. "Learning is much more interactive than it used to be, and the use of technology abounds," said one parent. The current design plans were submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) in 2017, but rejected by the Authority. The committee last met in April, but to some parents' disappointment, the topic of the school design was not on the agenda. Prior to the April meeting the group met in September 2019, before COVID-19 was on the school administration's radar.
Relatively unimproved since it was built in 1951, town officials are now pressing to replace this aging facility to improve educational outcomes. In addition to an antiquated heating system that has forced the regular relocation of students during the school day, town studies predict student enrollment growth will exceed capacity due to housing developments at the Shipyard. In a 2014 study, the building has also been deemed vulnerable to flooding from sea level rise.
In December 2019, the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) voted to invite the Foster Elementary School into the MSBA’s Eligibility Period. The MSBA is working with the Hingham School District to determine the "District’s financial and community readiness" to enter the MSBA Capital Pipeline. “The Eligibility Period is a critical step in the MSBA’s process of evaluating potential work on the William L. Foster Elementary School,” said Executive Director Jack McCarthy in a statement on the MSBA website.
Upon completion of the Eligibility Period requirements in September, the Hingham School District would become eligible for an invitation into the Feasibility Study phase of the MSBA Capital Pipeline, subject to a vote of the Board of Directors.
The Foster School Building Committee, led by Linda Hill, is comprised of Ray Estes, Chris Mercer, Kevin Lynch, Jen Murphy and Tim O’Neil.