We want to thank our students, parents, faculty and alumni for their feedback and insight about the recent decision by Queen of Peace High School to close its doors. More than ever, we are truly proud to be Vikings, and we are grateful for the dedication and wisdom of the members of our community.
For years, St. Laurence has built a reputation as the school “Where Leadership Begins.” We pride ourselves on empowering young men, grooming them for four years, and sending them off into the real world as capable leaders, ready for whatever obstacle they face.
After a close review of our strategic plan and in consideration of factors related to the closing of Queen of Peace, the St. Laurence Board of Directors, with support from the Members, voted today to extend our philosophy to young women. A St. Laurence education knows no bounds – armed with one, there are no limits to what our graduates can achieve. But to truly be boundless, our education must be accessible to everybody – regardless of background, ethnicity, financial situation or gender.
This is not a merger or a consolidation. Our leadership team has worked hard to create a very specific culture at St. Laurence, one that has resulted in tremendous success in our academics and athletics. Moving forward, St. Laurence will be led by the same individuals who helped us reach the level of achievement we experience today. We will operate as St. Laurence High School, part of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers.
St. Laurence’s leadership team is composed almost entirely of St. Laurence alumni. We were students ourselves and understand what St. Laurence means to our community. As such, you can be confident St. Laurence’s identity will remain the same. We are St. Laurence, we are the Vikings, we are Black and Gold and we will continue to Defend the Glory. That will not change, nor will the memories of over 14,000 alumni who walked these halls over our 55-year history.
Queen of Peace students have been great neighbors to us over the years, and for many of us they are our sisters, wives, friends and family. Queen of Peace’s closing is set to cause a major change in our operational environment, from the potential separation of families to the loss of efficiencies and collaboration. That said, while Queen of Peace’s decision accelerated our consideration to go coed, we have discussed this in the past. In fact, our 2020 strategic plan called for us to review this very option.
St. Laurence has seen growth in its enrollment in recent years, but the trends of Catholic education in Chicago cannot be ignored. Fewer and fewer students are going to single-sex high schools. Testing numbers have been on the decline at single-sex schools over the last decade, while coeducational high schools have seen an increase in test takers and historically experience far less volatility in enrollment.
With the closing of Queen of Peace we welcome a strong group of young women who, should they choose a St. Laurence education, will offer our community a new and valuable dynamic as they finish their high school careers together. These young women will bring intellectual opinions and experiences that differ from our male students, yet their familiarity and background with Queen of Peace’s STEAM program will align well with St. Laurence’s project-based curriculum. In the end, we believe our team-driven environment will only improve the exchange of ideas between students and help all of them prepare for the challenges ahead.
What we will not inherit is any debt, infrastructure or other obligations incurred by Queen of Peace. St. Laurence prides itself on maintaining its financial stability, and this will only improve by expanding our student body.
St. Laurence will take a strategic, stepwise approach to implementing this transition. For the 2017-18 academic year, we will invite all current Queen of Peace students to enroll at St. Laurence. It is a top priority to provide current St. Laurence and Queen of Peace students the single-gender education they signed up for, so all current and incoming students will remain in single-gender classrooms. This will allow our students to see very little change in their school day. To foster collaboration, we will open up activities before and after school and will develop a selection of coed electives to provide students opportunities to interact. There will be no girls in the Class of 2021, as we will not be accepting those who took the Entrance Exam at Queen of Peace in January.
We will begin recruiting both male and female students for the Class of 2022. There are many decisions we need to make to ensure the successful implementation of this plan. Our initial strategy will focus on keeping students in single-gender classrooms as freshmen and sophomores, allowing us to retain elements of single-gender education during students’ early years at St. Laurence.
We will be assembling an ad hoc committee to help us refine our plan moving forward. The committee will be comprised of Board members, industry experts and administrative leaders from other schools that have undergone similar transitions in order to ensure we are making the best, most informed decisions about our future.
St. Laurence leadership is firmly committed to ensuring a smooth transition. We anticipate that parents of current and incoming students will have many questions. I invite parents of current and incoming students to join us at one of our upcoming Town Halls to hear more about these plans and ask questions.
• Town Hall for Parents of Current and Incoming St. Laurence Students: February 16 at 6 and 7 pm
• Town Hall for Parents of Current Queen of Peace Students: February 17 at 6 and 7 pm
One final thought as we take the first step toward becoming coeducational. The discipline and academic excellence we experienced as Vikings were never the product of an all-boys education. These were the products of a St. Laurence education. With the same values in place and school leaders in position, St. Laurence remains committed to providing that level of guidance to all students – male and female – to ensure our students leave St. Laurence with the skills, maturity and leadership to take on the world.
With thanks and Viking Pride,
George Ruebenson ‘66
Board Chair, St. Laurence High School
Joseph Martinez ’99
President, St. Laurence High School