At the same time, it represents a savvy business move that could become the model for other all-boys Catholic schools throughout Brooklyn and Queens.
McClancy was founded by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in 1956. Since then it has established itself as a premier Catholic school with solid academics and an impressive athletic program. But times have changed in the past half-century.
Enrollment in many Catholic schools around New York City is down, something which forced the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn to reexamine its entire school system. As many parents turn toward charter schools and other non faith-based private schools, many faith-based institutions have struggled to find ways to stay relevant and grow.
McClancy can do both of those things by opening its doors to girls.
The merits of same-sex education will be debated forever. But in the McClancy community, anyway, there has been an overwhelming level of support for co-ed classrooms going back at least a decade, if not longer. (In 2001, the school hired an outside consulting firm to poll parents, alumni and others on the subject, and the co-ed model won hands down).
Most people associated with the school seem to agree that, while same-sex education served an important purpose in the past, it is time to move on and try a new approach. This makes sense from an academic standpoint, and also from a business one.
McClancy is in sound financial shape- having recently raised over $10 million for capital improvement projects such as new lockers, science labs and a running track- but that doesn't mean the school hasn't watched the generational changes impacting other Catholic schools in the area.
Agreeing to accept girls automatically widens the prospective student pool significantly. Given McClancy's reputation, recruiting an inaugural group won't be difficult.
Going further, the school has shrewdly seized on the opportunity to expand its enrollment from 444 students today to a planned-for 600 by 2016. That represents a 25 percent increase, one that any Catholic school would jump at in a heartbeat. If McClancy pulls it off, the change could be copied by rival all-boys schools.