Charter school will expand into two shuttered schoolhouses

By 
Melissa Tabeek, Special to the Reporter
Apr. 5, 2012

The Lucy Stone School near Codman Square — which has been unoccupied since it closed its doors in 2009 — will become the new home of 75 students of the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School this month.

The Lucy Stone school on Regina Road will be home to 75 charter school students this month. Bill Forry photoThe Lucy Stone school on Regina Road will be home to 75 charter school students this month. Bill Forry photo
After winning approval from the city, Roxbury Prep will be expanding out of its original campus in Mission Hill to two additional sites: the Lucy Stone building on Regina Road and the also-vacant Quincy E. Dickerman School building on Magnolia Street near Uphams Corner.

Roxbury Prep was awarded 1,800 seats by the Commonwealth a year ago February through a state process called charter authorization.

While the school was searching for space last year to accommodate those students both in private real estate and by working with the Boston Public Schools, the city was offering three vacant school buildings for lease. Roxbury Prep won its bid to secure leases on the two it will move into soon.

The first of the two additional middle school campuses actually opened last September, but its 75 fifth-graders have been meeting at a temporary location at 214 Harvard Ave. On March 7, Roxbury Prep staff found out they would be moving into the Lucy Stone building.

Today, the Mission Hill campus has 240 students in the sixth through eighth grades. Beginning in September, there will be 300 students there in Grades 5 through 8, 150 students in Grades 5 and 6 at the Lucy Stone campus, and 75 fifth-graders in the Dickerman building.

By 2015, Roxbury Prep expects it will have expand to a high school campus accommodating students from the fifth to the twelfth grades in a location that has not yet been determined.

Roxbury Prep was founded in 1999 on the third floor of the Edgar Benjamin Health Center in Mission Hill by a group that included J. Keith Motley, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Boston; Evan Rudall, CEO of Uncommon Schools; and Dr. John B. King, Jr., New York State’s commissioner of education.

Rudall, along with several other individuals who had run successful charter schools in Boston, later took advantage of the lack of caps on charter schools in New York and New Jersey and partnered with Uncommon Schools, a non-profit organization that starts and manages 28 urban charter schools focused on preparing low-income students for college.

“Evan and other people took the best practices of Roxbury Prep to grow other schools in New York and New Jersey which operate very similarly to how we do here: longer school day, double math, double curriculum, uniforms and outstanding teacher and professional development,” said Will Austin, chief operating officer of Uncommon Schools – Boston.

The founding team at Roxbury Prep decided to pursue growth when the Education Reform Act of 2010 doubled the number of charter seats in Boston. The group believed that expanding a successful model would be the best way to continue to make an impact on education.

It was at this time that Roxbury Prep formalized its partnership with Uncommon Schools, seeing the collaboration as a way to capitalize on Uncommon School’s experience with expanding and managing schools. “The work of running schools is different from growing schools. There’s a lot of work that goes into that and Uncommon Schools has expertise in growth,” Austin said, adding that “our mantra is that we don’t try to do too much; we try to do the really important things really well.”

As the school looks to 2015 and a new high school experience, its students and staff will be planting roots in Dorchester. “We’re thinking of it as a permanent home; this is where our kids are going to go to school,” Austin said.

Roxbury Prep was scheduled to present its plans for the Lucy Stone building at a meeting of the Codman Square Neighborhood Council last, after the Reporter had gone to press.