Real Estate Today: Meridian Academy takes over OLOL school

March 28, 2014
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Meridian Academy, an independent secondary school founded in Jamaica Plain in 2005, will be moving back to the neighborhood this summer.

Having outgrown its current location in Brookline, Meridian’s new location will be the former Our Lady of Lourdes (OLOL) Elementary School building at 54 Brookside Ave. That church school—JP’s last Catholic school—shuttered amid controversy nearly five years ago.

Meridian moved from its original JP location to Brookline in 2007.

“We began with 10 students in the basement of Covenant Congregational Church near Forest Hills. It did not have regular classroom spaces and we outgrew it pretty quickly,” Joshua Abrams, Meridian’s Head of School, told the Gazette. “We were thrilled to be able to expand into the former Our Lady of Lourdes elementary school.”

The OLOL building has three times as much classroom space and is “in the community where we want to be,” Abrams said, adding that all Meridian students must study Spanish and perform community service in Spanish-speaking settings.

“Students will have the opportunity to intern with local nonprofits such as the Franklin Park Coalition, BNN, Egleston Square Main Streets and others,” Abrams said. And “the space itself is fabulous.”

According to Abrams, Meridian staff and trustees have been forming relationships with Jamaica Plain community organizations to “enable students to connect their learning with service to the community through long-term course projects and internships.”

Meridian Academy is an independent, college preparatory school serving students in grades six through 12.

“The new building will allow us to grow to our final goal of a little fewer than 100 students total in grades 6 through 12,” keeping the school intentionally small, Abrams said.

The old OLOL School, part of the OLOL Parish complex at 54 Brookside Ave., was a K1-8 school with 187 students. It was abruptly closed in 2009 following a failed attempt to raise $500,000 to keep it open.

Catholic Church officials shocked parents early in 2009 with the surprise announcement that the century-old school was so financially shaky it would have to shut down that same year. Officials had known about the financial problems for about five months, but had not told parents or alumni. Outraged parents demanded and got the chance to save the school for at least one more year by raising half-a-million dollars in a few months.

That effort fell short, raising $350,000 in cash and pledges.

The Capuchin Franciscan friars, a Catholic religious order that took over administrative and pastoral care of the parish in 2008, were the target of ire over the school’s closure.

Meridian’s website is meridianacademy.org.

The new Meridian Academy at 54 Brookside Ave. (Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira)

The new Meridian Academy at 54 Brookside Ave. (Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira)