A group of local parents are planning to convert the stately Penguin Hall in Wenham into a new all-girls private high school, and likely the only one exclusive to girls north of Boston for the foreseeable future.
The Academy at Penguin Hall, the name of the forthcoming school and associated non-profit organization, completed its purchase of the 48-acre, 100,000-square-foot complex along 36 Essex St., Wenham, early last week. According to the Southern Essex Register of Deeds, the group paid $10.35 million for the property.
The property was owned Jim Mullen, the former proprietor of Mullen Advertising, which operated in Penguin Hall from the late 1990s until 2008.
Founders and early members of the academy’s still nascent board of directors are excited about the school’s future and are looking to accept about 100 young women come this fall, drawn from numerous communities north of Boston and even into southern New Hampshire.
School President Molly Martins, a Wenham resident and former member of the town’s Board of Selectmen, said the school would offer a program for young women “in the Catholic tradition of education.”
“It’s a passion for what we’re doing to get this off the ground,” Martins said, noting members fo the board have of-age daughters who will likely attend the school. “We have the capability, ability, and willingness (to open) for September.”
The school still must submit its plans and curriculum for approval to the Hamilton-Wenham Regional District School Committee and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education before the fall opening can be considered official.
Renovations of Penguin Hall are also ongoing to convert the complex into a modern school, along with the associated approvals for the new use by the town.
Members of the board remain optimistic for the fall opening, especially as word gets out about the opportunities a single-sex education can provide.
Dean Tsouvalas, the school’s director of advancement and communication and a Hamilton resident, said young women are six times as likely to pursue a career in science or technology fields if they attend a single-sex school.
“We believe in the benefits of a single-sex education,” Tsouvalas said. “There’s never been anything like this available for our daughters (in the area).”
Although considered in the “Catholic tradition,” the school will not be under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Boston as a formal Catholic school would be. The Academy at Penguin Hall would be a day school only and would have a dress code but no formal uniform.
The school itself will also encourage young women to find themselves through a focus on group projects and peer leadership.