The Mattapan campus of Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy will close its doors at the end of the school year, according to academy officials, who told parents in a letter on Thursday. All students and most faculty will be absorbed into the other three academy campuses in Dorchester, according to Kate Brandley, the regional director of Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy.
“We believe this consolidation from four to three campuses at the end of this school year, will strengthen the Academy in many ways –academically, financially and socially for all our students and families as we continue to build our school faith community,” Brandley wrote in the letter.
The transition is not entirely unexpected.
Over the last three years, students in the three upper grades— 6,7,8— have been relocated from Mattapan to the Lower Mills campus, the old St. Gregory's grammar school on Dorchester Avenue. The Mattapan campus presently has 102 students and serves 98 families, according to Brandley. All of them, she says, will be welcome to enroll at any of three campuses that will stay open— Neponset, Lower Mills and Columbia. The academy presently serves 1,150 students at the four campuses.
Brandley says that consolidating the student body and teachers into the three campuses will not result in larger class sizes— and will, in fact, enhance services and programming for everyone.
“Our Academy and campus structures will allow us to offer you the same strong academics, quality teachers, more robust peer group for students, optimum class sizes, enrichment programs and many other amenities that you do not have access to today, to enhance your child(ren)’s learning experience and further our dynamic program,” she wrote.
Brandley told the Reporter that the Mattapan campus has been “extremely high performing” but has seen a decrease in enrollment over the last two years. Next year’s anticipated enrollment is expected to decrease further, making the decision to act now more pressing. A large percentage of the Mattapan school’s population are children of Haitian immigrants, some of whom may be impacted by the cessation of Temporary Protected Status under the Trump administration.
The Mattapan school building— formerly known as St. Angela’s grammar school before the intra-neighborhood academy system was created in 2008— will likely be redeveloped, according to SJPIICA board member Jim Walsh.
“It’s a parish-owned property that we had a lease with- and parish will work w Archdiocese to look at other potential uses. Nothing imminent right now, but it will be worked through over the coming months.”
Walsh noted that the seventh and eighth grades that were once housed at the Mattapan campus were transferred to the Lower Mills building in 2015. Last year, the sixth grade class at Mattapan also migrated to the Dorchester Avenue campus.
This change will benefit every single family in the Academy,” said Brandley. “The more we have access to resources, the more can make sure families who really need financial support can get it.”
Walsh said the board expects the consolidation will— over time— allow for more investment in the existing campuses.
“The board wants to grow enrollment,” said Walsh. “Our families invest locally and we’d like strengthen to the outreach of Columbia and for Lower Mills and Neponset. We want to be part of the community and we are looking at that enrollment and marketing strategy.”