A month after a neighboring all-girls Catholic high school announced that it is closing, St. Laurence High School, an all-boys Catholic institution in Burbank, Ill., has decided that it will admit girls.
When officials at Queen of Peace High School, an all-girls campus in Burbank, said in January that the school would be closing, St. Laurence leaders said there were no plans to convert their campus to a coed institution. But after soliciting opinions from students, parents, faculty and others, St. Laurence has changed its mind.
"After a close review of our strategic plan and in consideration of factors related to the closing of Queen of Peace, the St. Laurence Board of Directors, with support from the members, voted today to extend our philosophy to young women," states a letter on the school's web site.
The decision came after examining the effect Queen of Peace's closure would have on St. Laurence—"for many of us they are our sisters, wives, friends and family."
"Queen of Peace’s closing is set to cause a major change in our operational environment, from the potential separation of families to the loss of efficiencies and collaboration," the letter says.
St. Laurence also considered the general decline in enrollment of Catholic schools in the Chicago Archdiocese, especially at single-sex institutions.
"St. Laurence has seen growth in its enrollment in recent years, but the trends of Catholic education in Chicago cannot be ignored," the letter says. "Fewer and fewer students are going to single-sex high schools. Testing numbers have been on the decline at single-sex schools over the last decade, while coeducational high schools have seen an increase in test takers and historically experience far less volatility in enrollment."
St. Laurence stressed that the decision to admit girls is not a merger or consolidation with Queen of Peace and it will not assume any debt, infrastructure or other obligations incurred by the girls school.
For the 2017-18 academic year, St. Laurence is inviting all current Queen of Peace students to enroll at St. Laurence, but most individual classes will remain single-sex.
"It is a top priority to provide current St. Laurence and Queen of Peace students the single-gender education they signed up for," the letter states. "This will allow our students to see very little change in their school day. To foster collaboration, we will open up activities before and after school and will develop a selection of coed electives to provide students opportunities to interact."
That means that St. Laurence will have no girls in its incoming freshman class (Class of 2021).
"We will begin recruiting both male and female students for the Class of 2022," the letter says. "There are many decisions we need to make to ensure the successful implementation of this plan. Our initial strategy will focus on keeping students in single-gender classrooms as freshmen and sophomores, allowing us to retain elements of single-gender education during students’ early years at St. Laurence."