Neighborhood House Charter School launches high school in Lower Mills

Neighborhood House Charter School’s Jahmeelah Bai-Grandson, principal of the high school, and Kate Scott, the executive director of NHCS, are shown outside the former St. Gregory’s High School building in Lower Mills. Bill Forry photo.

Students report for classes in old St. Greg’s High building

Neighborhood House Charter School (NHCS) has opened a new campus in Lower Mills to house its high school expansion in a building that formerly housed St. Gregory’s High School and Elizabeth Seton Academy. The charter school is leasing the facility at 2020 Dorchester Ave. from the Archdiocese of Boston for two years, with an option to add two additional years if needed.

Kate Scott, the school’s executive director, said that the 120 students from the school’s eighth and newly-created ninth grade are housed on the Lower Mills campus. Scott said NHCS hopes to make use of the Lower Mills campus as it weighs alternatives to either build or lease more permanent space in the coming years.

NHCS added some new wiring, lighting and cosmetic fixes before moving into the space over the summer, Scott said. But no major structural chages were made.

“It’s a beautiful building with great bones and a lot of light. It’s a terrific place to launch the school,” she said.

NHCS— which was one of the first five charter schools created after the Education Reform Act passed in 1993— was awarded 428 new seats in by the state’s Education Board in Feb. 2016. The tuition-free school has planned for the expansion for the last year and hired a new principal— Jahmeelah Bai-Grandson— in spring 2016 to take charge of the new upper grades. The school plans to add a new grade over the next three years.

“It’s a really nice opportunity, because we’ve aspired to extend the Neighborhood House experience beyond 8th grade, so when we were able to get the seats from the state, we were thrilled.

We will be able to use [the St. Gregory’s building] for 10th grade for sure, but it’s not a massive space and it will get tight.”

Until now, the school has been housed on Queen Street in the Pope’s Hill section of Neponset with roughly 400 students in grades K1-8. The high school will double the school’s size.

Out of 44 students who completed eighth grade last June, 35 have enrolled in the ninth grade, according to Scott. There are a total of 60 students in the ninth grade and the school is still accepting new students for open seats through a lottery system. Parents can visit thenhcs.org/enroll to learn more about admissions.

“I’ve been hearing fabulous feedback from the kids and the parents,” said Scott. “We feel like its doing a really nice job of retaining what it is to be a part of Neighborhood House but also establishing its own culture. It feels right from the start.”

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