Epiphany School looks to expand with purchase of Centre St. house

Dorchester’s Epiphany School has purchased a nearby house for an as yet undetermined use, the school’s leader told neighbors at a St. Mark’s Area Civic Association meeting Tuesday night.

The Rev. John H. Finley IV, head of school at Epiphany, said the Episcopal middle school closed on the purchase of 232 Centre Street Monday.

According to Finley, the school put together an offer of around $1 million for the building, which topped a higher offer of $1.2 million from another bidder.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do with it,” Finley conceded, describing the purchase as “a little cart before the horse,” but he added that the purchase needed to be made while the property was available. Finley said the school will soon kick off a $10 million capital campaign to raise funds to turn the building into a new arm of the school.

“So far, we haven’t raised a dollar, so we have our work cut out for us,” he said.

For now, the building will house some of Epiphany’s teachers while the school fixes it up. Finley encouraged neighbors to let him know if they noticed anything “iffy” going on around the building and said that he is available from 7:15 a.m. to 8 a.m. every morning while he greets students outside the school.

Finley assured the civic group that he will be coming before neighbors many times before anything major is done to the property.

Board member Camilla Duffy asked Finley if Epiphany would be expanding to serve high school students. Finley said the school’s focus will be on children younger than the middle school-age students they currently have enrolled.

He also took the opportunity to praised the local community’s spirit for supporting the school: “I’ve been part of building schools all over the country.... [and I’ve] never had a better community than this one. A community that’s engaged, a community that doesn’t always like everything that they hear but if they’re always looking for ways to make it work.”

According to the school’s mission statement, Epiphany is “an independent, tuition-free middle school for children of economically disadvantaged families from Boston neighborhoods.” Students “of diverse faiths, races, cultures and cognitive profiles” attend the school for twelve-hour days for “rigorous academic, moral and social instruction.”

The independently funded school has about 2,000 donors, Finley said.