An all-girls school in Los Angeles Unified School District is set to have its first day of school Tuesday, making it the first non-charter school of its kind for public school students to open in California in 20 years.
Girls Academic Leadership Academy, known as GALA, will focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math—making it a "STEAM" school. The subject focus is targeted to areas in which women and girls are historically underrepresented, such as science and technology fields, KPCC reported.
One sixth-grader, Lila Emerson-Fleming, has a spot in the school's inaugural class.
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"I love coding, and I love to engineer, and when I heard about this school, I thought it was a great opportunity," she said. "I'm also really proud that this is the first all-girls school."
There are mixed feelings about single-sex schooling, however, as some say it benefits students with increased rates of graduating on time, while others say it increases gender stereotyping. One "meta-analysis found no significant advantage over co-ed schooling," KPCC noted.
GALA may also spark "conflict between state and federal laws about the legal basis for single-sex education," according to KPCC. There is "no provision in California statute for single-sex schools. State law also explicitly prohibits discrimination in schools based on gender."
KPCC reported that "district officials had requested a waiver from the California Department of Education, but state officials said it could not judge a complaint against the school that hadn't been filed."
Federal-law permits single-sex schooling as long as "all students have access to equitable opportunities," according to KPCC, and LAUSD plans to open an all-boys school in 2017.
GALA's founding principle, Liz Hicks, said she hopes something is passed officially so other districts can consider adding single-gender schools.
"It's about providing a choice to girls, because to this point, they haven't had the choice," she added. "In Los Angeles, in order to go to an all-girls school, you need to pay upwards of $30,000 a year. That's just not affordable for most of our students."
She added that other assistant superintendents and superintendents in California have contacted her saying they want to watch what happens with single-gender schools in LAUSD because they may want to add a single-gender model to their districts.
"I think to make it easier for local school districts to do that, it would be great if something was passed," Hicks said.
GALA is located on Los Angeles High School’s campus in Mid-Wilshire. The district plans to open an all-boys school on Washington Preparatory High School's campus in 2017.
Read more at KPCC.