By ALLISON MATYUS
Hales Franciscan High School announced on Wednesday, July 27, that it is suspending its upcoming 2016-2017 school year.
The school’s board of directors made the decision to suspend next year’s programs but will resume in the 2017-2018 school year. According to Melody Spann Cooper, the chairwoman of the Hales Franciscan board, the time off will allow for the school to reset and regroup.
“We want to sit down and engage different community groups and educational stakeholders in what an urban curriculum looks like for young African American men,” Spann Cooper said about Hales, 4930 S. Cottage Grove Ave., which returned to an all male high school during the 2015-2016 school year.
Spann Cooper said they plan on rebranding the school entirely by making changes, and some of those changes are already taking place. A new principal, Anthony Daniels-Halisi, was recently hired to lead the school in a new direction, and Spann Cooper said they would be hiring a developer to engage in community philanthropy.
Despite threats of closure to the school in recent years due to low enrollment rates and financial struggles, Spann Cooper said closing the school will not happen.
“For years Hales has been threatened for closure and that is just not an option considering what is going on with young men in this city,” Spann Cooper said.
Hales only had 37 students this past school year and 18 of those students graduated; however, Spann Cooper said that they started the year with a robust entrance exam of about 40 prospective students. For those students who planned to go to Hales as well as the remaining students, Spann Cooper said the board is working with the Chicago Archdiocese to place them into other schools for this upcoming school year.
Spann Cooper said the school plans to continue to keep the school at a smaller scale to focus on a dynamic curriculum and a personal enrichment program that will attract more students to the school.
“I would hope that Hales would go from us trying to find students to come, to parents saying ‘I’ve got to get my son into this school,’” Cooper said.