Hockaday fourth-graders play on the playground. Photo courtesy of The Hockaday School Facebook.

The Hockaday School Board of Trustees decided to phase out the boarding program by May 2025, allowing all current participating students to graduate.

The decision came April 14 after a six-moth investigation into the program by an ad hoc committee, which examined the program’s role in the school’s mission; the school’s ability to provide a boarding experience that fulfills the school’s expectations for an “exemplary student experience”; the competitive field in residential education; the requirements for making the program financially sustainable in the long run; and the opportunity costs for Hockaday in supporting the program.

Dr. Karen Warren Coleman, the Eugene McDermott Head of School, says in a statement the decision marks an important moment in Hockaday’s history, and the school will be working with alumnae and students to plan events, exhibits, storytelling and more to commemorate the legacy and preserve the traditions of the century-old boarding program originally called the “Home Department.”

“For many in our community, including Boarding alumnae and all those who benefited from their relationships with and connections to our Boarding students, this will come as sad news,” Coleman says. “This decision also holds great hope for a new era in which the School engages more deeply and meaningfully with the Dallas region, extending Hockaday’s leadership and living out our core values of access, inclusion and equity more fully.”

Discussions about the vitality of the program have been going on for years. A committee was formed in 2005 to study the program, which was experiencing challenges in terms of enrollment and finances. When it reported back to the board of trustees in 2007, it came with recommendations. Some of those were achieved, but others, such as making the program financially self-sustaining by 2012, “consistently enrolling a full class of academically qualified students, realizing international diversity, and better supporting students with faculty and staff who live in residence.”

In the 2019-20 school year, Hockaday again gathered information about the program from students, parents and alumnae as part of the Hockaday 360 research project. The board formed a second ad hoc committee in October 2020 to formulate recommendations about the future of the program.

Consistent low enrollment in the program led to the school increasing financial aid to bring students into the program, and those deficits can’t be addressed by increasing enrollment or tuition, reducing financial aid or fundraising.

“We believe that for Hockaday’s Boarding Program to be competitive in the future, it would need to make significant investments in the program and facilities — and even with such investments, success is not guaranteed,” the committee reports. “We are resolved that if Hockaday cannot deliver a program that it can say with confidence is among the best anywhere, it should direct its resources and attention to other efforts that better serve its mission, enhance its leadership and distinction, and deliver, in the words of The Hockaday Difference, ‘an extraordinary student experience’ and ‘a model for how to educate girls.’”

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