High school hosting funeral for sophomore

HOLLIS – At noon today, the Hollis/Brookline High School auditorium will open its doors to hundreds of people for the funeral of Nicholas Jennings, 16, who died after a car accident Friday night.

Hollis/Brookline Superintendent Ken DeBenedictis said the decision was made after speaking to the Jennings’ family and the clergyman who will be conducting the funeral service.

School will be dismissed at 11 a.m., and students are free to attend the funeral or to go home, he said. School buses will be available for students who choose not to attend the service.

The school had not originally planned to dismiss students early today. A letter was sent home to parents about the day’s schedule on Tuesday.

DeBenedictis said although the school is hosting the service, it is not a school-sponsored event.

“This is a church service held at our facility for those who want to attend,” he said.

DeBenedictis said concerns for students’ safety was the main motivation behind hosting the funeral at the school.

“If the funeral was held at 1 p.m., we’d be dismissing hundreds of students to a facility that could not accommodate them,” DeBenedictis said.

The funeral was originally scheduled to take place at the Hollis Congregational Church.

Jennings, son of David Jennings of Brookline and Diane Jennings-Lilley of Hollis, was a sophomore at the school. He died after he was thrown from the 1993 Ford Explorer he was driving on Proctor Hill Road (Route 130) on Friday night.

Friends have decorated the spot where the accident occurred and held vigils at the location.

The school community is still feeling the effects of Jennings’ passing, DeBenedictis said.

“Today, the effect was still on the sophomore class,” he said Tuesday. “Many of them are still going through their grieving.”

School counselors had been available throughout the weekend, and the plan to have the funeral at the school came about soon after administrators heard about Jennings’ death.

The accident is still under investigation, according to police.

Sgt. Richard Mello said Tuesday that interviews were still taking place, and accident reconstruction experts had been brought in from Hudson to help piece together the events of Friday night.

This is not the first time that the two communities have held a funeral at a school facility. In 2002, the funeral for longtime Brookline elementary school principal Richard Maghakian was held at Capt. Samuel Douglass Academy.