Charter school finds home at church

Starting Sept. 6, the First Baptist Church at 633 Centre St. will have 72 new tenants, not counting teachers.

The church will serve as the temporary home of the new Bridge Boston Charter School for the 2011-2012 school year, First Baptist pastor Ashlee Wiest-Laird told the Gazette.

“It really helps a lot financially,” to have a tenant, Wiest-Laird told the Gazette.

The church was gutted in a fire in 2005, and has completed the first phase of a two-phase rebuilding project, but still needs to raise millions of dollars to rebuild its second-floor sanctuary.

Cheryl Alexander, president of Bridge Boston’s board of directors, told the Gazette that the charter school, which plans to eventually expand into a K-8 school, will only be at First Baptist for a year.

The plans for using the building came about only after another space in Mattapan fell through, and the dual use of the building as a school and a church is tricky, she said. Teachers will have to reorganize the space—which includes two classrooms and a large meeting room as well as offices—for church use on Wednesdays and Fridays, she said.

But the building is a good fit for the school in other ways, she said. The recent renovations mean there is no lead paint or asbestos, and that it is handicapped-accessible. That is particularly important for Bridge Boston. The school’s mission is to be a “full service program that supports students medical and social needs,” Alexander said.

She said the school plans to bring children in on two buses, and only “a handful” of parents plan to drive their children to and from school. School administrators will strongly encourage car-pooling for those students, she said.

Although current zoning allows the church to operate as a school, Bridge Boston plans to appear before the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council on July 26 and the Jamaica Pond Association Board on Aug. 1, Alexander said.


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