Conservatory Lab Charter School buys Hancock Street property

A Dorchester-based charter school that was forced to close its doors this year has sold its Hancock Street campus to another Dorchester charter school for $3.2 million. The Conservatory Lab Charter School has purchased the land and building at 127 Hancock St. that once housed the Dorchester Collegiate Charter School.

Conservatory Lab, a “music-infused” preK-8 school that originally opened in Brighton in 1999, will relocate its lower grades— kindergarten through grade 2— from Brighton to the Hancock Street facility in the fall, according to Gary Gut, who chairs the school’s board of trustees. Conservatory Lab will continue to house its upper grades— three through eight— in the former Laboure College building on the campus of Carney Hospital on Dorchester Avenue.

The charter school, which has 440 total students, has been leasing space on the Carney campus since 2014. The school had hoped to consolidate all of its classes to one location in Roxbury, but Gut said those plans are on hold for now. The school has withdrawn from a development project near Dudley Square, where it had partnered with the Nuestra CDC, which is redeveloping the former Bartlett Yard MBTA depot.

“We had to withdraw our amendment there due to resistance from a small but vocal group of leaders in the community,” said Gut, who said the Conservatory Lab had invested $1.4 million into plans for a new campus in Roxbury. “Unfortunately, we had to put that aside and we have formally withdrawn from that. If the activists and the Nuestra CDC decide to reverse course we would hope to re-enter the conversation, but that does not seem practical right now.”

Instead, Gut said that the school seized upon the opportunity to acquire the Hancock Street site— a former nursing home that has served as the campus of Dorchester Collegiate Charter School until this summer. The school had its charter revoked by the state’s Board of Education in a controversial ruling last January.

Gut said that the school building is suitable for the needs of the Conservatory Lab.

“Every school building need a freshening over the summer, so we are going to make some modest improvements over the summer,” said Gut, who said interior painting and landscaping are planned, along with new fencing and tot playground for the youngest kids.

The Hancock Street acquisition comes as Conservatory Lab is experiencing a major transition at the top: It’s Head of School Diana Lam has stepped down and will be replaced on July 1 by Linda Nathan, who will serve as the executive director. A new principal, Nicole Mack, has also just been hired.

“Linda Nathan is an experienced school leader who will be taking the reins,” said Gary Gut. “We hate to see Diane Lam leave but after 8 years of what was originally a one year transition, it was time. We worked hard over the last year to identify and negotiate a high quality replacement for Diana.”

Gut said that buying the Hancock Street site for its lower grades was “a no brainer.”

“We already serve a significant population from Dorchester and over two-thirds of our students are currently housed in Dorchester,” Gut said. “We like being in the community and we moved quickly. Our ability to deliver on a closing in an efficient manner was an important aspect of being able to purchase the property.”