Diocese rejects proposal for all-girls Hendricken

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An all-girls Hendricken is not in the school’s future, at least for now.

After nearly two years of consideration and a $20,000 feasibility study, Bishop Thomas Tobin has ruled out the proposal for a separate all-girls campus, which would most likely have been at the former Our Lady of Providence Seminary on Warwick Neck.

“I thought we had a good proposal. The Bishop had reasons for saying ‘no,’” said John Jackson, president of Bishop Hendricken High School.

As envisioned, the girls’ school would have started with about 100 freshmen and 50 sophomores. Jackson’s hope was to have the school up and running by the fall of 2017. The school would have operated in conjunction with the all-boys school, with the girls participating in certain programs such as chorus and drama productions.

“Most exciting, there would have been single-sex education at both places and joint extracurricular activities,” Jackson said.

The feasibility study found high acceptability and trust in the “Hendricken brand.” Recognition extended beyond Rhode Island and into Connecticut and Massachusetts, and while the school age population is declining across the state and some independent schools are struggling, Jackson was confident of building a school with 500 girls from grades nine through 12 in about five years.

“They would have come from all over,” he said with confidence. “They want to come here and spend $14,000. That tells us how strong the brand is.”

There’s more than a study to Jackson’s conclusion. He has watched the school’s introduction of eighth grade take off. The program – Eighth Grade SELECT Honors Institute – has 23 students this year. Next year it will have an enrollment of 37, with 27 of the total coming from public schools. Jackson sees an all-girls school likewise drawing from public schools. He acknowledged the school would have also pulled students from other Catholic-based schools.

“With Bay View [Academy] and Prout struggling as they are, this would have provided alternatives,” he said. He thought the school would have also taken some students from LaSalle Academy and St. Raphael Academy.

Jackson said Hendricken, the only all-boys high school in the state, has discussed the inclusion of girls for a long time. At this point, he said, incorporating girls at the existing campus would be impossible because of space limitations.

“We thought of it as a natural fit,” Jackson said of an independent campus. “We have been talking about girls for a long time and we thought it might happen.”

The possibility of using the former Our Lady of Providence Seminary at the Aldrich Mansion opened up when Overbrook Academy, now in Greenville, left the mansion property a year ago. Incorporating girls at the existing campus was never in the cards.

“Enrollment is so strong we couldn’t do it in this facility,” Jackson said. “We still have 920 boys, we just don’t have the room.”

A statement issued by the diocese reads: “It was decided that given the following factors including the declining demographic of school age children in the state, other Catholic high schools struggling with enrollment and whether there would be enough girls to open and sustain continuous annual admissions, that the proposed girls school would not move forward at this time.”

Tobin also rejected a plan several years ago to transition nearby St. Kevin School with pre-K to eighth grade students into a middle school run by Hendricken. The plan was advanced at a time when Warwick’s parochial schools – St. Kevin, St. Rose and St. Peter – were experiencing declining enrollment even with the closure of St. Francis. The fear was that a new middle school would further weaken the parish schools, drawing out sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

Warwick parish schools have since rebounded, showing some of the strongest enrollment in the diocese. Hendricken’s success has given the school a unique and enviable status. It hasn’t always been that way.

In the early 1970s, when the diocese was prepared to close the school, parents rallied to save it. The Christian Brothers assumed the school’s operation.

Hendricken soon became known as an athletic powerhouse. Jackson says that has changed, although the school remains formidable on the athletic field.

“The arts and technology wing made a complete school,” he said.

“They would come and discover art,” Jackson said of students who attended the school prior to the addition. “Now they come because of the arts.”

Comments

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RISchadenfreude

Don't count on the church ever doing this unless it will turn a profit. With their other schools facing constricted enrollment already, the church isn't going to further decrease enrollment in schools which already exist.

LaSalle only became coed because their male-only enrollment dropped to a point necessitating it; solid enrollment is the only reason Bishop Keough is still female-only (or still open, for that matter).

On another note, the increased enrollment in the parish schools speaks further to the public's lack of confidence in the Warwick Public School system; as enrollment is dropping in the public schools overall, it's increasing in the parochial schools while the unions hold on tooth-and-nail to their shrinking piece of the pie.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
richardcorrente

I am also in favor of a co-educational Hendricken. High school is supposed to prepare a student for life after high school. There happens to be two genders in that life. Our Hendricken students need to know how to interact with them both. Putting them in separate areas seems to me, to do more harm than good.

Richard Corrente

Democrat for Mayor

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Frankfaherty

Mr. Corrente, I found your comments about not preparing our students for life after high school by not being coeducational interesting. One thing Bishop Hendricken HS does a superior job is preparing their boys to become men after high school. Part of the magic that happens at an all boys school like BHHS is that you have a captive audience with less distractions so they can focus on what is important while in school; being challenged academically, learning to respect others, how to serve those less fortunate, how to become a leader and in a Catholic school how to take pride in your faith and use it to make the world a better place. BHHS does a great job providing opportunities to mingle with girls through the arts, dances, coed sports etc. Most of all , they are teenage boys...they figure it out! I am the proud parent of a freshman and junior at BHHS and I could not be happier with the experience they are provided. BHHS is mission driven and makes men from boys "through the development of the total human person: heart, mind, soul, and body".

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Frankfaherty

While the Bishop certainly has his reasons, I think the young ladies of RI would benefit from a BHHS education and experience. It seems like a natural progression to have two seperate campuses that could share extra curricular activities together. Maybe in the future it will be reconsidered.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
JohnStark

Mr. Corrente, You're misunderstanding the proposal. Hendricken would have opened a separate girls' school. If you really believe that Hendricken students and graduates are less capable of 'interacting' with women, or that an all-male school does "...more harm than good", perhaps you could reference some type of evidence to support your conclusion. Hint: No such evidence exists. Given that a co-ed Hendricken would require the removal of nearly 400 current young men from the school, one would hope that a potential "Corrente Administration" would seek a fact or two prior to commenting on matters of local significance that impact so many families. Both you and the bishop got this one wrong.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
SadieA

Mr. Corrente, what an uninformed, unsupportable position. First of all, the proposal was not for a coed BHHS but for a separate, all girls campus. Secondly, Bishop Hendricken boys have no problem attracting youn ladies, they are not living in a monastery.

Most importantly, BHHS boys develop into confident, considerate young men. They learn how to interact with others, and are impressive in the manner they present themselves to others. They are truly privileged to have the opportunity to attend such a fine educational institution.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
markyc

The Warwick Public School System could receive a lesson from Hendricken in how a school system SHOULD be operated. Mr. Corrente, whether or not a school system is co-educational, by itself, does not better prepare a boy/young man for life. They are involved more than enough, generally, from other areas of their lives as far as interactions go. Of course the decision was a cost factor. Possibly, in the foreseeable future, the Diocese will determine that it will be advantageous to provide a school for girls/young ladies. The current school situation at Warwick Public schools does not provide assurance/confidence in the administrators operating it. Hendricken is already providing a limited educational choice for eighth grade students that will more than likely expand. If & when an additional educational setting/venue could be offered that wouldn't compete against other area Diocesan schools, one can expect that that will be offered.

Thursday, June 2, 2016