Epiphany School buys for growth near Henderson School

Epiphany: A rendering of the proposed Epiphany School building, shown adjacent to an existing historic building at 232 Centre St.Epiphany: A rendering of the proposed Epiphany School building, shown adjacent to an existing historic building at 232 Centre St.

The Epiphany School has purchased land on Centre Street near the Henderson School for a new building and a new program for preschoolers. The site is a block or so away from the school’s flagship location near the T’s Shawmut Station.

“We were struck by the fact that we weren’t engaging with the families as robustly as we like as early as we would like,” said Epiphany School founder John Finley, IV about the purchase. The school, founded in Dorchester, is a private, tuition-free middle school that serves poor families in Boston. The new program on the new campus will serve roughly 60 students, from infants up to age 5.

The two-acre parcel combines 232 and 218 Centre Street, creating parking spaces for Epiphany staff to ensure they do not park on the streets around the school, a child care building, and a building combining housing for Epiphany’s teaching fellows, graduate support services, and administration offices. The site will also include a wooded play area and a sunny field and gardening area.

Epiphany expects the new buildings will cost $11 million, with another $1 million price tag to renovate the existing historic structure at 232 Centre Street. “We’re hoping to open perhaps in 2016, but we’re not in any rush or deadline,” Finley said. “Our goal is to get it right and do it well.” The school has already raised $16 million for the expansion.

Epiphany will leave the two existing structures on the land intact and unobstructed. The home at 232 Centre St. is protected by the Boston Landmarks Commission. “It has been a real large expense for the school but we are committed to maintaining it and we are working with the Commission to make improvements,” Finley said.

Finley and the Epiphany School talked about the new campus at last week’s St. Marks Civic Association, where the proposal was well received. “John’s heart has always been in the right place with children, teachers, and neighbors of the St. Mark’s area,” said association president Doug Hurley. “They’re willing to work with the neighbors and that’s huge.”

The goal for the Early Learning Center is to support students in the same private, tuition-free setting as the Epiphany middle school, but in an earlier manner, Finley said. “By the time those kids graduate from our Early Learning Center, they are so ahead that they wouldn’t want or need to come back for middle school. It frees our middle school up to serve more students, too.”

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