BCLA-McCormack merger on Columbia Point delayed; now set for 2024-2025 class

When current high school seniors at the Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA) were recruited years ago for the new BCLA-McCormack 7-12 School on Columbia Point – they were promised that they would move onto a fully renovated Dorchester campus from Hyde Park and graduate from the merged school community this year.

Those dreams were shot this week for those seniors and for rising seniors still at the BCLA’s Hyde Park campus, when BPS Supt. Mary Skipper sent a letter to families of the BCLA-McCormack School noting that seniors would not be attending or graduating from the Dorchester school until the class of 2024-25. Instead, they will remain at the Hyde Park location and graduate from there.

The merged campus was originally promised to be fully implemented by September 2022 under a School Committee-approved plan formulated two superintendents and three mayors ago, and before the pandemic.

“The timeline for bringing your full community together on the Columbia Point campus has seen some stops and starts, and we recognize that this transition has been challenging,” Skipper wrote in a letter dated Jan. 27. “Limited space and other operational constraints continue to cause delays in fully merging onto one campus for the 2023-2024 school year.

“For next year, we recommend that rising 11th graders remain on the Columbia Point campus as planned and that rising 12th graders continue learning on the Hyde Park campus until they graduate at the end of the 2023-24 school year.”

A virtual meeting with the school community is planned for Feb. 9, but Skipper affirmed that the district remains committed to the BCLA-McCormack plan and building out a high-quality space on Columbia Point. She said the BPS Capital Planning and Facilities teams have assessed all options and recommend the continued delay in merging.

Right now, some of the grades are attending the McCormack Middle and former Dever Elementary School site on Mt. Vernon Street while students at the high school are at the old BCLA site in Hyde Park (the former Hyde Park High School).

The new configuration was to house grades 7-12 in one facility on Columbia Point. It was a plan that was highly touted and discussed favorably in 2018 when school officials decided to phase out stand-along middle schools (grades 6-8) in favor of 7-12 middle and high school sites. BCLA-McCormack became the first foray into that new plan, with the idea being to create a pipeline closer to home for Dorchester, Mattapan, and South Boston students instead of having them commute to Charlestown, Brighton, and East Boston High Schools.

However, things soon came to a standstill with leadership changes in the city and the advent of the pandemic – despite many families being heavily recruited into the new school with the promise of one campus in Dorchester by 2022. Skipper’s letter was the first mention of the BCLA-McCormack plan in a few years, and the announced delays are expected to be met with disappointment at the Feb. 9 meeting.

In the letter, Skipper did lay out some progress on what she describes as Phase 1 in the merger process. Chief among the items is an agreement for BCLA-McCormack students to use the soon-to-be built Dorchester Field House, which will be operated by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester (BGCD).

Access for students at BCLA-McCormack has been a controversial pinch-point for the Fieldhouse project, and the agreement, which allows for the “exclusive use of the Martin Richard Field House by BCLA-McCormack students during the school day,” is being well received.

“Once the facility opens, students will be able to enjoy indoor athletic fields and courts, a walking track, fitness and training rooms, and more,” wrote Skipper.

Other improvements at the school include upgrading two new science labs with more advanced technology and equipment. The labs with newly hired teachers were to come online this month but it wasn’t apparent if the work had been completed yet. The superintendent also mentioned Life Skills Room upgrades, working with the Red Cross, Catie’s Closet, and the Back Bay’s Trinity Church.

The letter reiterated the district’s commitment to “building a physical environment on the Columbia Point campus that not only fits the full BCLA-McCormack community but is also designed with student and community needs in mind.

“As part of the Green New Deal for BPS,” Skipper wrote, “we are working with our city partners to develop updated options for Phase 2 of the project to provide our students with learning spaces that are safe, healthy, resilient, and inspiring.”
The meeting on Feb. 9 will present the current recommendations and seek input from students and parents. It will start at 5:30 p.m. in an online format.

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