Although the purchase of the former Marist High School has fallen through, the Bayonne Board of Education still wants to purchase the former St. Andrew’s School building and accompanying convent as a way to alleviate overcrowded public schools, officials said.
The shuttered school at Fourth Street and Broadway closed its doors in 2008, when the city’s Catholic elementary schools were consolidated into All Saints Catholic Academy due to financial strain caused by declining enrollment.
According to Superintendent of Schools John Niesz, the board is in the infancy of trying to acquire the building. “It’s still in the planning stages,” Niesz said.
For over a year, city officials have been looking to purchase the school and convent properties. The Bayonne City Council approved a resolution in March of 2020 authorizing a Purchase, Sale and Redevelopment Agreement and have been negotiating its purchase since.
The Board of Education approved a resolution at its September 2021 meeting authorizing architects to submit the project to the Department of Education for approval before the properties can be purchased.
Marist is a no go
The pursuit of the former St. Andrew’s School comes after the board decided to abandoned its pursuit of another closed Catholic school: Marist High School. Marist closed in 2020, due to declining enrollment and financial strain. Officials had been seeking to purchase Marist using the city as a conduit in the same manner as with St. Andrew’s.
However, Niesz told the Bayonne Community News that purchasing Marist would have been “cost prohibitive,” after the school district learned the project would cost anywhere from five to ten times what it had estimated. Remediating the property to get rid it of things like lead and asbestos was too costly, and the price kept increasing amid negotiations to buy the former high school.
So the city reassigned the purchase agreement and exited its involvement in the negotiations at the request of the board. The city council adopted two resolutions at its October 2021 meeting that reassigned the purchase agreement to developer Peninsula Court, LLC and cancelled the city’s $100,000 down payment to on the Marist property. Peninsula Court, LLC, owned by a local well-known residential and commercial developer the Alessi Organization, negotiated terms of purchase with the Marist Brothers.
And while Marist is no longer a feasible option, the board is looking at other locations including St. Andrew’s to create new schools to meet the needs of the city’s growing population.
“We’re exploring all possibilities,” Niesz said.
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