Mount Carmel High School considering going coed

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Mount Carmel High School

Mount Carmel High School, which has been educating boys on the South Side of Chicago for 122 years, is considering admitting girls starting in 2023, and is holding a series of listening sessions this summer to gather input.

The school announced in June that it wants to hear from all of its stakeholders, including students, parents, alumni and donors, before the board of directors meets Aug. 9 and the board of members — made up of Carmelite priests — meets Aug. 10. Both boards would have to be in favor for the school to move forward with the change, which could take place as soon as fall 2023, said Brendan Conroy, the school’s president.

The school, at 6410 S. Dante Ave., decided to consider becoming a coeducational institution after looking at enrollment trends not just on its own campus but among the Catholic elementary and high schools in the area, Conroy said.

“We’re doing really well right now,” Conroy said, noting that Mount Carmel’s 2022 enrollment of 573 students is in the 570-to-600 student range the school has maintained for the past several years. “We want to get out in front of that declining trend, enrollment-wise. The kids coming out of the Catholic elementary schools are the most reliable potential students that we have in a Catholic high school. There are fewer and fewer of them, and there are even fewer of them that are considering all-boys schools. We wanted to get out in front of that trend and be proactive.”

The facilities at Mount Carmel could accommodate up to 800 students, Conroy said.

Some Catholic high schools that have opened their doors to both boys and girls, such as Marist High School and St. Laurence High School in Burbank, have seen enrollment growth, and that’s what Mount Carmel’s leaders want for its future.

“Financially, we’re in good shape,” Conroy said. “Our enrollment is a challenge, like any Catholic high school. In terms of academics, mission, athletics, other activities, we’re strong. We want to be sure that we can continue to do that into the next several generations, not just the next few years.”

Several parents, alumni and donors who declined to be identified were skeptical that the school would make the change, especially since many alumni donate to keep the tradition they enjoyed alive, but most said they would consider sending their children there whether or not it was coeducational.

Nicholas Anderson, a 2022 graduate, said he wants the school to remain all boys.

“I think it would ruin the tradition of the school (to enroll girls),” said Anderson, who plans to attend Purdue University Northwest in the fall. “Especially things like our Kairos retreat — you’re there with your brothers, and it would be different if there were girls. You can just be yourself and not worry about impressing the girls.”

Conroy said no decisions will be made until everyone has a chance to express their opinion and the two boards meet in August.

“Being all male is a selling point we’ve heard from some incoming families,” he acknowledged. “That is a concern. We need to learn these things from folks. Because we do a really nice job of forming our young men at Mount Carmel, and there’s certainly a concern that could get diminished if Mount Carmel were to go coed. I believe we could still do that in a school setting that includes young women as well as young men.”

Conroy said the school has gotten both positive and negative reactions so far.

The Carmelites do have experience operating coeducational high schools, including Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, which started with side-by-side boys’ and girls’ schools in the 1960s. The two combined under the joint sponsorship of the Carmelites and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1988.


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