Boarding Decision

Frequently Asked Questions about Boarding

Adapting to long-term trends in independent education, The Hockaday School Board of Trustees has decided to phase out the School’s Boarding Program over the next four years, even as Hockaday redoubles its engagement with and expands access to the Dallas-Fort Worth community. The following FAQ offers detail on that decision, as well an earlier decision, based solely on student safety and the Covid-19 pandemic, to continue the temporary closure of the Residence Hall in 2021-2022.

Updated April 14, 2021

Phasing Out Boarding

List of 5 frequently asked questions.

  • What is happening to Boarding at Hockaday?

    The Boarding Program has been a valued part of the Hockaday community for more than 100 years. However, long-term market pressures have led to persistent challenges in the program, affecting enrollment, finances and the student experience. Based on a review conducted in 2005-07 and another in 2020-21, Hockaday’s Board of Trustees voted on April 14, 2021, to phase out the School’s Boarding program by May 2025, allowing all current Boarding students to graduate.
  • When did Hockaday launch its Boarding Program?

    The Boarding Program was established in 1914 as the “Home Department,” housing six girls on Haskell Avenue.
  • What prompted the decision to phase out the program?

    The vote follows more than 20 years of discussion about the strengths and challenges of the Boarding Program and how best to fulfill the School’s mission, including an exhaustive, six-month examination completed in April 2021 by the Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Boarding Program.
  • What happens to current Boarding students?

    The Hockaday Board reaffirmed the School’s commitment to fully supporting current Boarding students through to graduation and to honoring the legacy of Boarding at Hockaday. Although Boarding students are currently learning at Hockaday as Day students or remotely because of the pandemic, we look forward to welcoming them back to the Residence Hall as soon as we can do so safely.
  • Is this long-term decision related to the temporary closure of Hockaday’s Residence Hall?

    No. In March 2020, we closed the Residence Hall because students would not be safe living in close quarters there during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2021 we announced that, based on advice from our Medical Advisory Group, Dallas County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control, we will continue the temporary closure into the 2021-2022 School Year. Short-term decisions about the pandemic were separate from the long-term, strategic deliberations of the Ad Hoc Committee and the Board of Trustees.

Ad Hoc Committee Process

List of 7 frequently asked questions.

  • Have there been previous reviews of Boarding?

    In 2005, faced with significant challenges to the Boarding Program’s enrollment and finances created by a shifting market, Hockaday’s Board of Trustees created an Ad Hoc Committee to study Boarding. That committee reported back in 2007, and as a result the School pursued the ambitious set of recommendations it offered. While some of committee’s stated goals were met, however, many others were never achieved, including making the Boarding 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.
  • What led to the current examination?

    In 2018, the Board of Trustees identified the Boarding Program as a topic for future attention. In 2019-2020, the School gathered detailed feedback about Boarding from students, parents, and alumnae as part of a comprehensive research project, Hockaday 360.
    In October 2020, in light of ongoing questions and the length of time since the prior review, the Board of Trustees formed a new Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Boarding Program and charged it with developing recommendations about the program’s long-term future. This evaluation was completely separate from the short-term decisions about the Residence Hall necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • What is the governance process for making programmatic changes to the Boarding Program?

    Hockaday’s Board of Trustees is the body charged with making decisions about long-term changes to the Boarding Program. As it has before, in October 2020 the Board appointed an Ad Hoc Committee to conduct analysis and develop recommendations. The Ad Hoc Committee kept the full Board and relevant Board Committees apprised at every step throughout its six-month review. The Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendations were forwarded to the Board of Trustees, and the Board called a special meeting to discuss and vote on whether to accept the recommendations. According to the Board’s bylaws, programmatic changes to Boarding must pass with at least a three-fourths supermajority of all voting Trustees.
  • What was the Ad Hoc Committee’s charge?

    Following the Board’s charge, the Ad Hoc Committee examined:
    • Boarding’s role in the School’s mission;
    • Hockaday’s ability, now and in the future, to deliver a high-quality Boarding experience that meets the School’s expectations for student well-being;
    • The competitive landscape in Boarding School education;
    • What would be required to achieve long-term financial sustainability in Boarding; and
    • The opportunity costs for the School in supporting Boarding.
  • Who served on the Ad Hoc Committee?

    The Committee was composed of Trustees — including many alumnae, former Hockaday Boarders, former Boarders at other schools, parents with children attending other Boarding schools, current Hockaday parents, and two Life Trustees — and members of the Hockaday Leadership Team with specific, subject-area expertise.
  • How were Boarding alumnae included in the Committee’s process?

    Two Hockaday Boarding alumnae were appointed to the Committee, along with alumnae of other Boarding programs. To supplement their input, the Committee made an extra effort to personally interview more than 40 alumnae of the Boarding Program from a wide range of graduating classes. The Committee also paid close attention to what Boarding students, parents, and alumnae told us through focus groups and surveys. Additionally, in March and April 2021 members of the Committee invited many groups, including all Alumnae and all current parents, to learn more about the research and analysis through a series of Zoom meetings.
  • How did the Ad Hoc Committee develop its findings and recommendations?

    The Ad Hoc Committee engaged in a thorough process of research, deliberation, and engagement with the Hockaday community, reviewing hundreds of pages of data and history and conducting more than 100 meetings and interviews with stakeholders between October 2020 and mid-April 2021.
    Over the past six months, the Ad Hoc Committee met 15 times; presented 13 updates to Board Committees, the Hockaday Parents Association and Alumnae Association; interviewed dozens of Boarding alumnae and reviewed additional research among Boarding students, parents, and alumnae; conducted benchmarking research with 12 peer schools with both day and boarding programs; and reviewed extensive Hockaday, national and international data and trends. Its outreach and data-gathering efforts have been at least equivalent to the work of the prior committee, if not beyond it.

Ad Hoc Committee Recommendations

List of 3 frequently asked questions.

  • What were some of the Ad Hoc Committee’s key findings?

    The Ad Hoc Committee found that many Boarding alumnae and current students rated their experience well and experienced many positive outcomes. It also found that some of the efforts invested in Boarding over the last 15 years had made a positive difference, but were not sufficient to overcome the significant, long-term market forces that have affected small boarding programs everywhere. The Committee found that the inability of the program to enroll a full class of students for more than 30 years, along with increasing amounts of financial aid needed to yield students to Hockaday, had created decades of significant structural deficits in Boarding that would likely grow worse in the future.
    Most importantly, the Committee determined through research and benchmarking that the student experience in Boarding, while regarded positively by students and alumnae, was not commensurate with the best boarding programs nationally. The Committee found that in an era of changing student needs and expectations, Hockaday would have to make major additional investments in Boarding, including far greater staffing, in order to ensure the program lived up to Hockaday’s standards for students’ academic and residential experience.
  • What scenarios did the Ad Hoc Committee consider for the Boarding Program?

    The Committee looked at a range of options. These included growing the program, shrinking the program, or focusing on specific market segments (such as only international, only regional, or only full-pay). The Committee also looked at whether there could be an opportunity to carve out a specialty or niche. And it has considered whether Hockaday could create a more robust live-in program for faculty and staff in Boarding.
    The Committee agreed on several key elements that must be present for Hockaday’s Boarding Program to be successful in the future. Its list of “must-haves” includes:
    • Developing a clear statement of the pedagogical purpose of Boarding;
    • Developing a realistic plan to achieve financial sustainability;
    • Addressing the gaps in support for student well-being;
    • Establishing a well-defined recruitment and marketing strategy;
    • And enhancing the student experience through improvements to staffing and programming.
  • What was the Committee’s recommendation?

    The Committee found that the original reasons why Hockaday’s Boarding Program was both necessary and distinctive have changed over time. Hockaday, meanwhile, does not have the capacity or scale to mount a best-in-class Boarding program, the Committee found.
    The Committee concluded: “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. 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.’ ”
    Based on those findings, the Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Boarding Program recommended phasing out the Boarding program while supporting current students to complete their educations and graduate.

Boarding Enrollment and Financial Pressures

List of 6 frequently asked questions.

  • What enrollment pressures have affected the Boarding Program?

    The Committee learned that Hockaday’s Boarding Program has suffered from declining demand in the U.S. and internationally, a reality that has led to persistent low enrollment (below the School’s capacity). In response, the School has had to offer increasing amounts of financial aid are needed to yield students into the program. The combination of under-enrollment and increasing financial aid has led to a large, and growing, structural deficit in the program.
  • Why isn’t there more demand for Boarding at Hockaday?

    There has been a multi-year trend of declining demand in domestic and international boarding school markets, along with growing competition for that shrinking pool. The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) documented that enrollment of domestic boarders fell about 1.5%, or 400 students, each and every year from 2000 to 2015. TABS began forecasting sharp declines in international student enrollment, both day and boarding, beginning in 2019. Current prospective Boarding student interest is highest for larger East and West Coast schools; the most successful boarding programs tend to have a distinctive niche, such as a specialized sport or activity, while Hockaday does not.
  • Has Hockaday invested in stronger Boarding recruitment?

    Hockaday has made many efforts to enhance recruiting, including hiring a full-time, dedicated recruiter for Boarding, engaging in additional marketing efforts, continuously cultivating strong relationships overseas, and refining our recruitment strategy based on emerging data. Our enhanced recruitment efforts since 2007 have led to short-term increases in inquiries and applications to Boarding but have not ultimately increased the number of applications from academically qualified students.
  • Why would Boarding need additional investment?

    The Committee determined that Hockaday would need to make substantial changes to ensure the quality of the student experience. In our peer benchmarking, we learned that other successful programs have a much larger, live-in staff and faculty who support an excellent student experience and help to integrate residential and academic life. Hockaday’s current staffing is insufficient to provide the experience we desire for our students.
  • What would Hockaday need to do to overcome the financial pressures?

    The Committee found that the persistent structural deficits over the past 30 years are too large to be addressed by increasing enrollment, raising tuition, reducing financial aid, or fundraising.
  • Can Hockaday raise more money from donors to address the deficit?

    Hockaday donors have given generously to Boarding in the past, and we are extraordinarily grateful for their support. The Ad Hoc Committee conducted a break-even analysis to consider a variety of financial levers to close the deficit, including fundraising. The amount of endowment funds that would need to be generated to support the program’s deficit far exceed the School’s demonstrated capacity to raise funds for this program.

Effects on Current Boarding Students, Alumnae, and Staff

List of 7 frequently asked questions.

  • What will Hockaday do to commemorate Boarding?

    Boarding is a valued part of Hockaday’s history and future legacy, and our Boarding students and alumnae remain — now and in the future — a vital part of the Hockaday family. We are looking at a variety of ways to document, honor, and celebrate the Boarding Program and to keep our Boarding alumnae actively engaged in the life of our School. We will share more details as we develop these plans.
  • How will the phasing out of Boarding affect current Boarding students?

    Before the Ad Hoc Committee was launched, Hockaday’s Board of Trustees made a commitment to Boarding students and families that all current Boarding students would be able to continue their Hockaday educations through to graduation. We look forward to welcoming them back to the Residence Hall as soon as we can do so safely, and in the meantime continuing a high level of support for them to maintain their unique and caring community.
  • How many Boarding students will return to Hockaday in Fall 2021?

    There are 48 Boarding students who may return to Hockaday in 2021-22. Of these, the vast majority have already signed enrollment contracts, while the rest are still considering their options for the fall.
  • What will happen to Boarding students in 2021-2022 with the Residence Hall closed for safety reasons?

    The vast majority of our Boarding students have chosen to take part in our Day program for 2021-2022, while living in the Dallas area with family, friends, or Hockaday host families. A small number of students will continue in our distance learning program.
  • Will Hockaday help Boarding students find local host families?

    As we did for the current year, we reached out to the Hockaday community to invite families who are interested in hosting a Hockaday Boarding student to volunteer for next year. If you are interested in hosting, please contact Jill Flinders, Director of Residence Life, at
  • Is the Residence Hall closed for good?

    No. We expect to re-open the Residence Hall to our current Boarding students as soon as pandemic conditions have progressed to the point that we can ensure the safety and well-being of students and staff. We hope to make that change for the 2022-2023 School Year if conditions allow.
  • Will new students be able to enroll as Boarders during the phase-out?

    No. We will not recruit or enroll new Boarding students.

Diversity and Access

List of 4 frequently asked questions.

  • Is Hockaday concerned about the potential loss of diversity with the Boarding Program winding down?

    Hockaday is deeply committed to diversity, equity, and to sustaining a “genuine culture of inclusion and belonging” – it is a one of four key priorities in our strategic planning. Through focused efforts across the School, Hockaday has grown considerably more diverse today than it was 10 or 20 years ago. The Day student body currently includes 40% self-identified students of color, an all-time high.
    Even so, we know we have more work to do to be a truly inclusive community. During the 2020-21 School Year Hockaday introduce many new efforts to strengthen inclusion and give students, faculty, staff, parents, alumnae, and Trustees the tools to engage respectfully across difference. This work is ongoing, and we are committed to building on it.
    Our Hockaday 360 research also found that alumnae and families want the School to be more socioeconomically diverse — a commitment shared by School leaders — and we have more work to do to ensure a Hockaday education is affordable for students of all backgrounds.
  • With the gradual departure of international Boarders, how will Hockaday ensure it has a global character going forward?

    Boarding students have contributed a wonderful breadth of experience, culture, and perspective to our School. Even so, Hockaday’s research shows that we have not been reaping the full benefit of the diversity in Boarding, because students have experienced the Boarding and Day programs as fairly separate. Families tell us they want a more global learning experience across the School. Going forward, we will review our curriculum and co-curriculum to create a greater global focus across our courses, programs and student activities. It is not sufficient simply to recruit international students and think that is making us a globally focused school.
  • How will Hockaday’s engagement in Dallas contribute to diversity at the School?

    The Hockaday 360 research found untapped opportunities to recruit diverse students from Dallas-Fort Worth, which is the fastest-growing metro area in the United States. This includes opportunities for greater outreach to students of color as well as international students who are right in our backyard. Non-Hispanic whites now represent less than a third of the population of Dallas, and two thirds of Dallas students under age 10 now identify as minority. More than a quarter of Dallas residents are now foreign-born. Hockaday is committed to building on efforts like our Institute for Social Impact to deepen engagement with the Dallas-Fort Worth region, increasing access to a college preparatory education for girls from a wide range of backgrounds.
  • What is the School’s plan to be more engaged in the Dallas region?

    Dr. Karen Warren Coleman, Eugene McDermott Head of School, has developed a preliminary vision that will enhance Hockaday’s connectivity and engagement in Dallas-Fort Worth.
    Hockaday’s leadership team will develop operational plans for several key areas, including:
    • Expanding Day enrollment and financial aid
    • Developing partnerships and outreach to recruit diverse students, faculty and staff
    • Refreshing the curriculum to incorporate even more innovative teaching approaches, enhancements to STEM, and multicultural and global perspectives
    • Enhancing equity and inclusion programming and professional development for faculty and staff
    • Extending programs that support social and emotional well-being for all students
    • Expanding ground-breaking efforts such as the Institute for Social Impact
    • Exploring summer pipeline programs in partnership with other independent schools

Pandemic and Fall Residence Hall Closure

List of 10 frequently asked questions.

  • Who serves on the Medical Advisory Group?

    Hockaday’s Medical Advisory Group is made up physicians, health experts and Trustees who can help School leadership evaluate the continuously updated public health guidance and emerging medical research. The Medical Advisory Group’s work and all deliberations are informed by the CDC and Dallas County Health and Human Services, among other medical authorities. Members include:
    • Dr. Karen Warren Coleman, Eugene McDermott Head of School; Karen served on the Dallas Mayor’s COVID-19 Alliance
    • Kathryn Walker Francis ’94, Chair, Hockaday Board of Trustees
    • Karen Halsell, M.D., Hockaday’s pediatric physician since 2010
    • Erika Herridge, R.N., Director, Hockaday Health Center; Erika participates in a biweekly meeting with the Dallas County Health Department
    • Rajani Kapu ’90, M.D., Hockaday Parents’ Association Past President and Boarding alumna
    • Neelesh Mehendale, M.D., Hockaday Trustee and Secretary of the Board
    • Nicole Small ’91, President, Lyda Hill Foundation, and incoming Hockaday Board Chair; Nicole’s community work has included research into COVID-19 testing protocols
  • How does the rollout of vaccines affect this decision?

    Our medical experts do not believe we can ensure all our Boarders can be vaccinated by the start of school next year.
    Pfizer is the only vaccine that has emergency approval for youth ages 16-18; not only do we have many Boarders younger than 16, but it is not yet possible to specify which vaccine you get.

    The preliminary testing results announced by Pfizer on March 31 that its vaccine is safe and effective in 12- to 15-year-olds is certainly encouraging; however, many more steps remain in the process. First the results have to be independently verified and the independent review board may request additional data, as it did with the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Moderna is testing in youth under age 18. Once their clinical trial results have been fully verified, Pfizer and Moderna will apply for Emergency use Authorization by the FDA, and this also takes time. It is still unlikely that all our Boarders would be able to receive a vaccine by the start of the school year, and it could take much longer.
    For more information on vaccine availability and other medical factors, see our COVID-19 fact sheet.
  • Why can’t Hockaday reopen the Residence Hall when other schools and colleges have been able to do so?

    The limitations of our space and the small size of our Boarding program create unique challenges for Hockaday. Other boarding schools and colleges that have been able to reopen often have a much larger program and/or different campus facilities that make social distancing, quarantine, and other safety efforts easier to accomplish. Hockaday’s Boarding program serves minor children, while residential programs at the collegiate level primarily serve students 18 and older, who can be sent alone to hotels and other facilities to quarantine.
    Some boarding programs have been able to make a bubble, with students, teachers and staff restricted to campus and to one another. We are not able to do that. Our Boarders are in classes with Day students, teachers and staff who come and go every day.
    We also do not have the ability to isolate, quarantine and care for our students in our residential facilities in a way that would create a physically and emotionally healthy environment.
  • Why does Hockaday need to close the Residence Hall when it has been able to keep the Day program open with on-campus instruction?

    Residential living significantly increases the risk of transmission and challenges of quarantining. Boarding students are in contact with one another and with staff for a much greater part of the day, sharing bathrooms and other facilities in a way that Day students do not. Furthermore, Hockaday’s Residence Hall is not designed in a way that would allow safe distancing among our students and staff or allow us to effectively implement other key COVID-19 safety measures.
    If there were to be cases of infection or exposure, the Residence Hall does not provide the ability to isolate and quarantine students in a way that would allow for a physically and emotionally healthy environment. When a Day student gets sick or is exposed, they can go home and quarantine and be supported by their families. The same scenario doesn’t apply in the Residence Hall, where there are fellow students living with each other, and with staff, sharing hallways, bathrooms, lounges, laundry rooms and kitchens.
  • Why did Hockaday make the 2021-2022 decision in March and not wait until more information is available?

    Families urgently needed information about next fall to be able to plan. If we waited longer, some opportunities would be foreclosed to them. This would not be fair to students who may be struggling with distance learning and can’t get a visa to come to the United States to join our Day Program.
  • Would you consider reopening during the school year if COVID caseloads and vaccine availability improve?

    We will of course be monitoring the changing circumstances, but we also think it is important to give our students a sense of consistency and predictability. We have told our Boarding families and students all along that they can continue at Hockaday through to graduation, and that we will support them. We are committed to reopening the Residence Hall and welcoming them back once we are sure we can do so safely.
  • How many cases of COVID have there been this school year, and how have they been handled?

    As of April 16, 2021, Hockaday has had 58 student COVID cases and 35 faculty/staff cases. We have had 412 students quarantined and 90 faculty/staff quarantined. For more information, see resources on Hockaday’s COVID-19 and Illness Guidelines, Contact Tracing Process, and Health and Safety Measures.
  • Will Hockaday require students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, as it has done with other vaccines?

    Hockaday, like all schools, requires some (but not all) childhood vaccines as a condition of enrollment. For example, we do not require students to receive the HPV vaccine.
    Hockaday has not made any decisions related to the COVID-19 vaccine for students, nor for faculty and staff, at this time. The available vaccines have only emergency use authorization from the FDA and have not been fully tested in children.
  • Are there other factors behind the decision to keep the Residence Hall closed in 2021-2022?

    No. The temporary closure of the Residence Hall is driven solely by the safety and well-being of our students in the pandemic. It is not related to the longer-term decisions about Boarding.
  • What medical advice did you consider in the decision not to reopen the Residence Hall in Fall 2021?

    Our decision was based on the unanimous recommendation of Hockaday’s Medical Advisory Group. In addition, we have closely consulted with the students and families affected; gathered input from our Trustees, faculty, staff, and alumnae; learned from peer schools; reviewed the latest scientific research; and closely followed the guidance of medical experts in our community, in Dallas County, and nationally.
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