Mount Carmel High School considering going coed

Leaders of the longtime all-boys South Side Catholic school will make the decision in August.

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The student section at Mount Carmel High School’s Barda-Dowling Stadium at Carey Field.

Mount Carmel is considering becoming a co-ed high school.

Sun-Times file

Mount Carmel High School is considering admitting girls beginning in the fall of 2023.

The school’s board of directors will meet on Aug. 9 to “decide a course of action,” according to a note posted to the school’s website. 

However, the school’s board of members, composed of Carmelite priests and brothers, “must give approval to such a weighty matter before it can happen,” according to a message posted online by school leaders Thursday.

The board of members plans to meet on Aug. 10.

“Acknowledging that growth has been elusive for all single-gender schools in the archdiocese, school leaders point to demographics showing fewer students coming out of Catholic elementary schools over a long period and continuing into the future. ... Leaders noted that growth in Chicago Catholic high schools is occurring in coeducational settings,” the message on the school’s website said.

In the message, Don Barry, chair of the board of directors and a 1963 alumnus, said “The time is now to consider this, while we are strong in all aspects of the Mount Carmel experience. Regardless of student population, the mission has always carried on. That will continue.” 

The views of students, parents, employees, alumni and donors will be taken into account, school leaders said.

Messages posted to the school’s Facebook page were overwhelmingly against going coed, with many noting the unique benefits of an all-boys education.

“This will remove a major reason why a lot of people drive their sons past other Catholic schools to Mount Carmel,” read one message.

“My son will be starting his freshman year this fall, something that we have been looking forward to for years. This feels like a betrayal,” one mother posted.

One of the few posts in favor of the move was from Anne Lux, who said her brothers attended Mount Carmel.

“If Mt. Carmel was co-ed in 1994, I would have been the first one in line! The sense of community, family, and belonging was so strong and incredibly appealing. I wanted to be a part of it too,” she said. “Do you know how many alumni would most definitely send their daughters to Carmel? Can you think beyond gender and see how this would benefit all young adults? Evolving does not mean throwing away the past and does not wipe away long held traditions.”

Lux, reached Friday, added: “If kids can’t concentrate because there’s a girl sitting next to them, then let’s talk more about why that is, let’s address that because we need to all function day to day, and let’s not just let it go with ‘boobs are too distracting.’”

School leaders planned to host several “listening sessions” this summer to gather input.

Notable school alum include Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, former Chicago Blackhawk Chris Chelios, former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb and former Oregon State University men’s basketball coach Craig Robinson, who is also former first lady Michelle Obama’s brother.

Mount Carmel was founded in 1900.

Other all-male Catholic high schools in the city are St. Patrick, Brother Rice, St. Rita of Cascia and Leo.

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