GRAND BOULEVARD — Hales Franciscan High School reopens Tuesday again as a boys-only school and with a new focus on engineering and entrepreneurship.
The Catholic school at 4930 S. Cottage Grove Ave. closed last year to reorganize and prepare to convert back to being a boys-only school.
The school, which opened in 1962 as an all-boys school, moved to co-ed in 2013 in an effort to boost enrollment, but the school board reversed the decision in 2015.
“That never worked out well. Hale never reached a sustainable number of girls,” said Melody Spann-Cooper, chairman of the school’s board.
She said the board decided two years ago to move back to being all-boys by 2017 and to allow the girls already enrolled in the school to finish.
While it was closed last year it retooled its curriculum to focus more on engineering and entrepreneurship.
New principal Anthony Daniels-Halisi said that the school will also focus on its central religious traditions of service to the community and push more learning projects that help the community and provide students with positive mentors.
“There is a hunger for male-only schools where there are a lot of mentors,” Daniels-Halisi said.
He said the new tact is meant to appeal to parents of African-American boys and set the school apart in a competitive environment where Catholic high schools are vying to lure a students from the dwindling number of feeder schools.
Hales Franciscan is only enrolling freshmen for this year and Daniels-Halisi said there are currently 35 boys signed up. He said the school will likely hit its goal of 50 freshmen early in September when students often transfer to private schools.
The goal is to build the school up to 200 students, according to Daniels-Halisi. That would bring the school back up to its peak enrollment over the past 10 years.
When the school closed last year it was well short of that goal with only 37 students at the school being taught by four teachers. The school was also fighting to raise enough money to keep itself going and continue to provide scholarships to its students, a task made more difficult by decision to close the school that was reversed when Cooper took over the chairmanship in 2015.
Cooper and Daniels-Halisi said they’ve been building the alumni association for fundraising, but also to make sure there is a consistent roster of mentors available to the students.
The tuition for 2017-18 is $10,000, though the school's web site says that financial aid is available so that "tuition for most students is significantly less and manageable."
The school is still aggressively seeking students and Daniels-Halisi said he was in La Grange on Tuesday at an recruiting event.