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Only on ABC-7: YISD to create an all-girls academy

The Ysleta Independent School District is moving forward with a plan to create an all-girls school.

The Young Women’s Leadership Academy would be in what is currently Hillcrest Middle School at 8040 Yermoland Drive in the Lower Valley.

YISD Superintendent Dr. Xavier de la Torre said the proposal will move forward whether or not a $451.5 million proposal is approved by voters.

The proposal for the all-girls school is listed in the facilities master plan, which is serving as a blueprint for many of the changes that would be paid for if the bond issuance passes during the May 9 election.

“It’s a unique opportunity. It isn’t something that you typically see or expect in a public education setting,” de la Torre told ABC-7. “In many ways, I’ve described it as a Loretto (Catholic Academy) experience in a public school setting.”

De la Torre met with ABC-7 at Hillcrest Middle School this week to talk about the building’s anticipated future. He said the Young Women’s Leadership Academy would focus on STEM curriculum and work like a magnet school for science, technology, engineering and math.

The concept was created by the Young Women’s Leadership Network, based in New York City, and has popped up in other cities and states, including Texas. De la Torre said he recently visited a girls-only campus in Dallas.

“There’s absolutely no expectation gap. I think all the girls over there believe in their ability, potential and promise to lead in the future,” he said.

De la Torre said the goal is to promote the college culture and prepare girls who come from families where higher education isn’t an established tradition.

“There won’t be any general education courses here. It’s understood that this is about college readiness,” said de la Torre. “This is about promoting the level of rigor needed in colleges and universities.”

Part of the curriculum wouldn’t take place in the classroom or even the building. De la Torre said there would be summer enrichment where students would travel both stateside and internationally.

The concept is exciting for a math teacher who spoke to ABC-7.

“I’d love for it to be an all-girls school,” said Sara Shaffer. Shaffer said she attended public and private schools and knows the benefits of an all-girls school.

“There’s just a really big difference between having to deal with all the social anxieties that come with boys being in the classroom,” said Shaffer.

“Research proves they’ve been taught to think they’re lower, so, just to give them the opportunity to challenge themselves would be great,” she added.

The plan is to reopen Hillcrest as a sixth-12 grade girls school by fall of 2017, at the earliest.

The website for the Young Women’s Leadership Network can be found by clicking here.

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