Boarding school heading to Northfield in January
NORTHFIELD — An empty boarding school campus could start the new year with a new owner.
Redemption Christian Academy, of Troy, N.Y., is finalizing agreements to purchase the old Linden Hill School, which closed in June due to budget shortfalls.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to move students to the campus by January,” said the Rev. John Massey Jr., Redemption Christian Academy founder.
The school was founded in 1979, and bills itself as one of four traditionally African-American boarding schools remaining in the country, though it teaches students from all backgrounds.
Redemption holds co-ed day programs for all levels, from pre-kindergarten through high school. Its boarding school is available for students from grades 7 to 12, and also offers an additional year for graduates who would like some more time to get ready for the world.
The school teaches about 100 students, with half of them in the boarding program. Massey said he hopes to move about 25 of those boarding students to Northfield in January.
“We will probably start out with a skeleton crew,” said Massey. “For the time being, we will use our present staff (from New York), and probably hire some local part-time staff.”
“We don’t want the property to be empty. We want to maintain its viability,” he said. Massey found out about Linden Hill’s closing while visiting another Northfield campus. Redemption was among several groups that toured the former Northfield Mount Hermon School campus after its owners announced they were seeking a new recipient for the 217-acre campus earlier this year.
The campus, which saw enrollments around 500 at NMH, was more than Redemption needed, but a couple miles south, the 100-acre Linden Hill campus was a better fit. At its peak, Linden Hill taught about 52 students, about the amount Redemption hopes to house.
While touring the former NMH campus in April, Massey said his school had been seeking a new home with room to grow. Its schoolwide enrollment hovering around 100, Massey said the school has had to turn applicants away because there simply wasn’t enough room.
It’s also a more comfortable fit for the town than the 5,000 students proposed by Grand Canyon University, which was awarded the NMH campus, but later declined.
The size of GCU was a problem for some in town, and other candidates raised ideological concerns among residents. However, Massey said the town has been welcoming to Redemption.
“It’s been a pleasant shock to see how welcoming everyone has been,” said Massey.
He said visits to town have been met with smiles and well-wishing from residents.
“I think it will be exciting to have Linden Hill occupied,” Selectboard Chairwoman Kathy Wright told The Recorder last month. “It’s too beautiful of a campus to stay empty.” Massey hoped to close the deal months ago and begin moving to the Linden Hill campus this month, but ran into some delays.
“It’s been a complicated process,” he said. “We’re moving forward; it’s just a matter of paperwork now.” In addition to academics, Massey hopes to bring the school’s athletic program to town. Redemption currently has five basketball teams, including girls’ basketball, boys’ modified, junior varsity, varsity and college prep teams.
Those teams are often on the road, with games in New York and New England, and as far away as Georgia, Florida, Arizona and Nevada.
The school also has a work study program, in which all students are required to participate. Redemption aims to provide a low-cost boarding school education. It charges significantly less than several nearby private schools.
Tuition for Redemption’s seven-day, domestic boarding students is $24,500 per year, while five-day boarders are charged $19,500, and day students pay $7,000.
Deerfield Academy’s domestic boarding students pay $47,500 in tuition, and day students are charged $34,050. Tuition for Northfield Mount Hermon’s boarding students is $49,700, while day students pay $34,200. The Stonleigh-Burnham School charges $48,443 for boarding and $28,890 for day students. All of the schools offer financial aid to qualifying families.