A charter network focused on all-boys and all-girls schools is expanding in the Bronx. Borough reporter Erin Clarke filed the following report.
Rain or shine, the day begins at Girls Prep with a greeting from the principal.
The welcome sets the tone at this charter school co-located at MS 302 and run by the PublicPrep organization.
Martha Zornow, Managing Director of New School Development, says it is part of a strategy.
"It makes us safe and responsive, so we see a kid when she first walks in the door and if something's up we know them well enough to tell from their face what's going on," says Zornow.
Administrators say that environment encourages strong communication among students, staff and parents.
"Sometimes I drive to school and I let Soleil out and then I park, so I don't see her come up and go into her classroom. So when I come, like 'Has anyone seen Soleil?' and they'll say 'Oh, well, yes, Mom, we've seen Soleil. She went upstairs.' Or if someone hasn't seen her they'll say 'Oh, would you like us to call the classroom?'" says one parent at Girls Prep Bronx, Dorothy Arthur.
PublicPrep started with Girls Prep Lower East Side in 2005 as the only charter dedicated to single-sex education.
Staff say the environment helps students succeed.
PublicPrep CEO Ian Rowe says it helps prevent intimidation.
"Sometimes in a co-ed setting there might be situations where math or science, a girl might feel intimidated in a co-ed setting, but in ours, every leadership position is served by a girl," says Rowe.
Administrators say it's not that PublicPrep believes that a single-sex education is the best way to teach children; it's that the organization wants to give parents options.
"If I wanted to, for example, send my young boy to an all-boys public elementary school in the Bronx, that option doesn't even exist," Rowe says.
Come fall, however, it will.
PublicPrep is expanding—opening a Girls Prep Bronx middle school and a Boys Prep.
"We will be the first and only all-boys public elementary school [in the Bronx]," Rowe says.
One-hundred-twenty kindergarten and first grade students will be admitted to Boys Prep in August.
Girls Prep Bronx Middle will offer accceptance to 75 students, most of whom will transition from the elementary school.