A Catholic high school in Woodlawn announced last week that it was considering co-education after 122 years of being an all-boys school.
In an announcement on the school’s website Thursday that was shared via social media, Mount Carmel High School said it would make the final decision Aug. 9-10 when the board and council members of the school will meet.
“Since 1900, Mount Carmel has built a legacy of educating young men from a wide variety of backgrounds…So, 122 years later, school leaders are confident that it is time to proactively consider whether and how provide that same opportunity for young women in families who come to 6410 S. Dante,” the ad reads.
If the decision to become a student is finalized, Mount Carmel, attended by Michelle Obama’s older brother, Craig Robinson, would follow St. Laurence High School, a Catholic school in Chicagoland that became coeducational in the fall of 2018.
Mount Carmel President Brendan Conroy told the Chicago Tribune that while the school is “in a strong position right now,” the consideration is driven by enrollment trends in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Current enrollment at Mount Carmel is around 600 students, according to the school’s website.
“The number of students in archdiocesan schools is a challenge,” he said, citing rising costs and smaller family sizes as contributing factors. “We want to see if we can come out ahead of this with a conversation about the possibility of co-education to see if that would be a way for us to stay strong in the archdiocese.”
Conroy said community responses came from “all ends of the spectrum.” The reaction on the school’s Facebook page was more one-sided, with many comments opposing coeducation, citing the school’s motto: “You come to Carmel as a boy.” If you care to struggle and work for it, you will leave as a man.
To this, Conroy said the school’s student body has changed over time in terms of students’ identity, religiosity, and geographic reach. “There have been evolutions of Mount Carmel and we will always cling to that mission and that tradition of who we are,” he said.
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Michele Russo, a parent of a rising senior and a rising sophomore at Mount Carmel, strongly opposes not only the possibility of co-education at Mount Carmel, but the way the decision is made.
“It’s such a big decision, and you’re going to make it within six to eight weeks? (Compared) to how long has it been all the boys? It’s not right,” she said.
Russo, whose children travel to school from northwest Indiana, said his eldest was interested in Mount Carmel because of the sports, but the family was drawn to the school’s mission .
“They (did) a lot about how boys learn differently than girls, which was really important because my youngest has ADHD and I wasn’t getting any support from public school for that,” said she declared.
Russo said his youngest son liked the school as it is now and told him he might prefer to finish high school closer to home if Mount Carmel became a student.
The school is holding virtual and in-person listening sessions for various stakeholders ahead of the final decision date.
“I want the entire Mount Carmel community to have the opportunity to express their positive, neutral or negative feelings about this,” Conroy said.