For the first time, the Los Angeles Unified School District will open two all-girls' schools next fall.
The Board of Education on Tuesday approved two secondary campuses for girls: one will be overseen directly by L.A. Unified; the other will be an independently operated, district-authorized charter school.
In recommending the district-run, science-oriented school, staff cited research indicating that girls move away from math and science as they get older.
"Female students perform at the same level or above their male peers in math and science while in elementary school," according to the staff analysis. "However, their scores on standardized tests in math and science decline as they progress to middle school and high school." And fewer girls take advanced math, science and computer courses.
The Girls Academic Leadership Academy, or GALA, will be housed at Los Angeles High School, a co-ed campus in Mid-Wilshire. The new academy will start with grades 6 and 9, eventually expanding to grades 6 through 12. The start-up budget includes $333,800 to reconfigure part of the campus and $138,000 for an administrator and an assistant.
The Girls Athletic Leadership School will serve grades 6 through 8, and target students in Van Nuys, Panorama City or North Hills, starting with up to 125 students in grade 6 next fall. Charter leaders still are looking for a location and hope to find space on an L.A. Unified campus.
While pledging rigorous academics, the charter school leaders also assert that "through movement, students [will] experience the connection between pushing themselves physically and thriving academically." They add that "students who have limited ability to move" would be "encouraged to participate through physical modifications and support."
The charter, called GALS, is modeled on a school in Denver, said Carrie Wagner, who is starting the L.A. school.
Wagner said the two girls schools hope to work together.
"We believe this could be the perfect collaboration between a charter school and a traditional district school -- although not so traditional," she said. "We are both very excited [about] working together and sharing best practices."
Although the proposal had no opposition, board member George McKenna wondered about the other gender.
"Has anybody considered a boys' academy?" he asked.
"The answer is yes," said L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines. "The planning for that is in the works."
Cortines said he brought forward the project for girls first because it was ready and has been in the works for two years.
The district already has a type of single-gender school. At Young Oak Kim Academy, a middle school in Koreatown, boys and girls are separated for the core academic classes.
The district also has some small alternative programs for girls, including those who are pregnant.