By Seth Daniel
The Bunker Hill Community College Chelsea Campus announced on Monday that it would be moving from its long-time location in Bellingham Square in order to expand its program in the Simboli buildings at 70 Everett Ave.
Replacing them in the old Post Office space in Bellingham Square will be the Phoenix Charter School, which will leave its long-time site on Nichols Street in Prattville.
The move would become official in January 2017.
Associate Provost Alice Murillo and Phoenix President Beth Anderson made the announcement publicly at Monday’s City Council meeting after discussing the issue with councillors and City officials.
“We find ourselves in a need to expand,” she said. “For that to happen, we need more space and we need space where we can have modern labs. We will now be occupying the entire fourth floor and part of the third floor at one of the buildings on Everett Avenue. We will also have the potential of expanding in the future by leasing more space as it becomes available. We do not want this to be just overflow for the Charlestown campus. This would be dedicated to specific programming and students could spend their entire time at Chelsea.”
Bunker Hill President Pam Eddinger has expressed displeasure over the last two years regarding public safety and some conditions at the Bellingham Square campus – particularly for students there at night.
However, a spokesperson said the move had nothing to do with those previous issues about moving the bus stop and some of the conditions around the old post office building. Rather, it had everything to do with expanding the campus.
The location on Everett Avenue is the former Everest College, so the building is already set up for an educational use. The campus in Chelsea would continue to offer Allied Health specialties, but Murillo said they hoped to make some of the certificate program into Associates Degree programs. They would also be focusing on business, criminal justice and early childhood education.
Bunker Hill has been in Chelsea for four decades, and this would be the fourth location. They have been at the old Chelsea High School (Clark Avenue Middle School), the Commandant’s House in the Soldiers’ Home, and moved to the renovated old Post Office building in 1998.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it wasn’t the best news in the world, but he understood it.
“I’m sorry to see them leaving Bellingham Square, but it’s good for the students that they’re staying in Chelsea,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bunker Hill did pledge that they would maintain a presence in the Post Office facility for night classes and some other programming. They would also maintain the partnership lab there with Phoenix Charter School.
That brings on the second moving part of the announcement, and that is the fact Phoenix will leave its school site in Prattville to move to the downtown.
“We are seriously thrilled that the next iteration of our lives will be made in the existing Bunker Hill campus in Chelsea,” said Anderson.
She added that the mission of Phoenix is to get their students – who often have not flourished in a regular school setting – ready for college through an innovative partnership with BHCC.
“It has been reported that in 2020, 75 percent of jobs will require some college training,” she said. “Our students have gotten off track and we want to bring them back on track. I can think of no better way than to partner with an institution like Bunker Hill.”
Phoenix would begin renovating the BHCC Chelsea building in January 2017, and would schedule occupancy for July 2017. Phoenix has been operating on Nichols Street since 2006.
The partnership between the two organizations, BHCC and Phoenix Charter, was recognized on Nov. 15 by MassINC for a Gateway Cities Innovation Award.
They were one of only three recipients statewide for innovation in education.
Statistics from the Chelsea campus showed that Chelsea residents were the largest number of students at the campus, with 226 students. The next highest numbers were from Dorchester with 159 and then Revere with 120 students. Everett had 99 students at the Chelsea campus.