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Hales Franciscan High going co-ed

Updated: September 8, 2013 6:18AM

Hales Franciscan High School in Bronzeville has long been educating African-American boys “unto perfect manhood,” as the school’s motto goes.

But starting this fall, partly due to upheaval within Chicago Public Schools, Hales will open its doors and its intentionally small classes to girls, too, leaving Chicago with one less single-sex high school.

Principal Erica Brownfield said the board decided to turn the school co-ed after hearing parents and community members, pleased with the quality of Catholic education for young men and the safe environment, wonder: “Why not offer it to young women?”

“Especially with all the CPS schools closing?” Brownfield continued.

Some freshman core classes — for example math and English ­— will be segregated by gender, she said, but upperclass courses will have boys and girls in the same room.

Hales Franciscan, 4930 S. Cottage Grove, may not be as well known as the all-boys Catholic high school Mount Carmel High School or De La Salle, which separates its boys and girls by campus, she said, but the school named for a Franciscan scholar sent last year’s valedictorian to Dartmouth on a full ride. His class of graduating seniors numbered 29.

The school of about 125 students hopes to expand to about 150, she said. Tuition is $7,500 a year.

“Our goal as a Catholic institution, as Franciscans, is to be a safe environment, incorporating goals and morals into education,” she said.

Some alumni are questioning the decision, said Brownfield, acknowledging that “there’s been some resistance.”

But she hopes they give the school a chance before condemning the plan.

Eventually, the school will adapt its identity to celebrate its female students, too.

Meanwhile, the school has no plans to change its fight song:

Hales Franciscan, Hales Franciscan

Rise you men of Hales

Spartan Pride the Red and White

Our Spirit never fails

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