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GARY — Indiana’s last public all-girls school will become co-ed as early as next school year.

The Distressed Unit Appeals Board, which oversees the Gary Community School Corp., approved in a meeting last week the conversion of Frankie Woods McCullough Academy for Girls to a co-ed facility beginning in the fall.

Pete Morikis, Gary Community Schools Corp. emergency manager, said the change could generate new revenue for the district and attract families back to the Gary school district who may have left for other area districts and charter schools to keep their boys and girls in school together.

Along with plans to explore kindergarten program expansions and opening a second middle school in the district, Morikis said structural changes in the district could bring Gary schools a $1.3 million to $1.9 million increase in net revenue.

Ideas for change in the district have largely come from a series of parent meetings organized as Morikis joined the district this winter.

“We haven’t done a good job in the past of listening to our parents and we need to do that,” Morikis said. “All of the actions we’re putting in place are clearly the result of listening to parents and children.”

Considering changes at McCullough, the district heard some pushback from parents who specifically choose to send their students to the school because of its all-girls status. In response, Morkis said the district will weigh options to provide three types of classes in the Gary school — co-ed classes and single-gender classes for both boys and girls.

The re-opening of McCullough as a co-ed academy will expand options for families living on the city’s west side. Beveridge Elementary School is currently the only west side co-ed elementary serving parents in the Gary district.

Morikis said the school corporation will also look to expand to four kindergarten classes in the McCullough building, which currently only fills 257 seats of its 799 student capacity.

“We need to give parents an option,” Morikis said. “We need to give parents a reason to choose Gary schools.”

The Distressed Unit Appeals Board also approved last week plans to move forward with public hearings to consider the conversion of Bailly Preparatory Academy on the district’s south side from an elementary school to a second middle school.

Students currently attending Bailly would be moved to the under-capacity Glen Park Academy. The district’s only middle school, Gary Middle School, in the city’s Miller section, is a far reach from the city’s south side.

Morikis said the proposal would not only bring greater efficiency to the district, but would also open up academic options for the community.

In community discussions, the district has proposed opening Bailly as a STEM-focused middle school, while Gary Middle School would focus heavily on bringing performing arts opportunities to students.

The district has not yet set an official date for a middle school public hearing, but Morikis said he expects it will take place before the end of the month. He said the school corporation will work to notify parents in advance of the meeting.

“This is truly about providing them the best opportunities,” Morikis said. “It’s important for parents to know that when they attend public meetings and share their ideas, ideas are heard.”

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Education Reporter

Carley Lanich covers education in Lake County and throughout the Region. She comes to Northwest Indiana from Indianapolis and is an IU-Bloomington grad.