JCPS board

The JCPS board meets to discuss plans to open an academy for girls of color. | Photo by Olivia Krauth

Jefferson County Public Schools believes it is on track to open a school for girls of color in time for the 2020-21 school year, officials said Tuesday.

Roughly 25,000 of JCPS’ nearly 100,000 students are females of color, the district says. Those heading into the sixth grade in fall 2020 may have a chance to attend the new academy, which will feature Afrocentric, gendercentric and STEAM curriculum.

The unnamed academy would begin with a sixth grade class of around 150 students with plans to grow into the 12th grade in the coming years, JCPS officials told the school board in a work session Tuesday afternoon. It would cost more than $2.5 million in its first year, officials said.

Superintendent Marty Pollio was mum on where the school would be located but said the district is considering repurposing central office spaces to make room.

As a STEAM school, it would focus on science and technology as well as art. Coding would be a required part of the curriculum, and hip-hop and Caribbean dance would be apart of art classes.

Focused on, but not limited to, girls of color, the curriculum would also be Afrocentric and gender-specific. The accomplishments of women of color would be a part of lessons, and the hallways will be lined with art featuring black women — not male presidents.

Chief Equity Officer John Marshall said the academy’s graduates will be “definitely Spelman bound, but also NASA bound.”

Girls of color are among the least likely to feel as if they belong in their schools, according to district data. JCPS officials hope an environment designed for and around them will help foster a sense of belonging like it did at the W.E.B. DuBois Academy.

The W.E.B. DuBois Academy, a boys-only middle school, launched in August 2018. It will welcome back its inaugural class, now seventh graders, and a new batch of sixth graders next Wednesday. Officials said the school, which has students of all races but focuses on African American students, turned away 400 applications for the second class of students.

A girls version would also quash any fears of running into legal issues under Title IX, which requires equitable offerings for girls and boys. The ACLU, around the time that the DuBois Academy was coming to fruition, said only offering a boys school could run afoul of the law.

The school board is expected to vote on the proposal on Aug. 27. If passed, a principal is expected to be named in September followed by introducing the school’s concept to parents in October at the Showcase of Schools.

Teachers and curriculum will be hired and designed by next spring, according to a timeline provided by the district. Creating a school in a year caused some concerns, but officials said they have a blueprint in DuBois and “absolutely” believe the school will be ready by 2020.