Epiphany School of Boston: A Tuition-Free School

Boston. Allan Baxter/Getty Images

Location: Dorchester, Massachusetts

Tuition: Tuition-free

Type of school: Episcopal school open to girls and boys of all faiths in grades 5-8. The current enrollment is 90 students.

Admission: open to students who quality for free lunch in the state of Massachusetts; students must also live in Boston. Admission is based on lottery, except for siblings of current students.

About Epiphany School

Founded in 1997, Epiphany School is a tuition-free private school open to children who live within one of the neighborhoods of Boston and who come from economically disadvantaged families. In order to participate in their lottery, students must qualify to receive free lunches in the state of Massachusetts; in addition, all siblings of current or former students are also accepted into the school without going through the lottery system.

Because of its admissions criteria, Epiphany School has a very diverse student body. About 20% of its students are African-American, 25% are Cape Verdean, 5% are white, 5% are Haitian, 20% are Latino, 15% are West Indian, 5% are Vietnamese, and 5% are other. In addition, students at the school have other needs, as about 20% of the students’ families are working with the state Department of Children and Families, and 50% do not speak English as their first language. Many of the children also need routine dental, eye, and health check-ups, and some of the students (about 15%) are homeless during their time at the school.

The school is Episcopalian in orientation but accepts children of all faiths; only about 5% of its students are Episcopalian, and it does not receive direct funding from the diocese of the Episcopal church. The school has daily prayer and a weekly service. Students and their families can decide whether to participate in these services.

In order to educate its students and help them with their needs, the school offers what it calls “full-service programming,” which includes psychological counseling, three meals a day, routine medical check-ups, and fittings for eye glasses. As many of the students come from families that can not provide after-school care, the school day extends from breakfast at 7:20 in the morning through after-school sports, a 1.5-hour study hall (also held on Saturday mornings), and a dismissal at 7:15 in the evening. Students must be able to commit to a 12-hour day to attend Epiphany. The school also holds Saturday enrichment activities, which are not mandatory for students; in the past, these activities have included basketball, art, tutoring, dance, and preparation for the SSAT or Secondary School Admissions Test. In addition, the school works in close partnership with students’ families throughout their time at the school and even after they graduate.

During the summer, students who are going to enter 7th and 8th grade attend an academic program at the Groton School, an elite boarding and day high school in Groton, Massachusetts. Rising 7th graders also work at a Vermont farm for a week, while 6th graders take a sailing trip. Fifth graders, who are new to the school, have programs at the school.

Once students graduate from the school in 8th grade, they receive on-going support. They attend charter schools, parochial schools, private day schools in the city of Boston, and boarding schools in New England. The faculty at the school works to match each student with the high school that is right for him or her. The school continues to visit them, work with their families, and make sure that they receive the support they need. Currently, Epiphany has 130 graduates in high school and college. Graduates can continue to visit the school as often as they wish, including for the nightly study halls, and the school helps graduates find summer work and other opportunities. Epiphany provides the type of comprehensive education and care that its students need to flourish in high school and beyond.