The Jersey City School District is considering a plan to open the state’s first all-girls public school for students in sixth through twelfth grades.
Interim Superintendent Norma Fernandez said the school is open to any girls who wish to attend and admissions are not dependent on test scores, unlike the admissions process at Infinity Institute and McNair Academic High School. She said she attended Young Women’s Academy in Harlem and the Bronx in November and “we were very impressed.”
Fernandez said the district hopes to open the school in September with sixth and seventh graders. Grades would be added each year and the first class would graduate in June 2026.
“I want to continue with that,” said Fernandez. “I’ve just reached out to the organizers to set up a meeting for next week so we can start the process. We would have to establish a location and the grade levels and it would be implemented gradually so that it would be a couple of grades each year.”
She said the school would be housed in another school, similar to how Innovation High School is located in Snyder High School.
“There are a number of schools that have room for something like this,” Fernandez said. “By March we should be ready for further plans so we can also share with our parents to interest them in applying and make any repairs in the building design that we need to make.”
The all-girls public school would be called the Jersey City Leadership School for Young Women and would be operated in partnership with Leading Young Women, Inc. and the Student Leadership Network.
The Student Leadership Network (SLN) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding education in underserved communities. According to the organization’s website, she opened the first all-girls public school in the United States in Harlem in 1996. She has since opened four other all-girls public schools in New York and seven more across the country.
Board Chairman Gerald Lyons said the organizations had reached out to the district and school board asking them to present the benefits of an all-girls school.
Tamika Quick, Leading Young Women CEO, told the BOE Jersey City was chosen because New Jersey has no single-sex public schools for girls and gender-matched students. She said the city schools had the highest dropout rate and the lowest graduation rate in the county for girls.
Sarah Boldin, director of SLN leadership and new school development, said 96% of students graduate from high school and 95% go on to college. She said 64% of her graduates go on to college degrees, slightly higher than the national average. Jersey City graduation rate is 83.1%
“Leading Young Women as an organization is committed to developing critical thinking, self-awareness, a powerful voice and confidence in our young women,” Quick said Jan. 27. “By developing these skills, our students will learn how to manage and overcome societal pressures while maintaining a growth mentality.”
Elizabeth Woodall, the principal of Saint Dominic Academy, a Catholic school for grades 7-12 in Jersey City, said students don’t have to worry about managing certain social dynamics that are common in co-ed schools and all Girls there leave leadership positions in the team.
“Because we’re a comprehensive school, (the girls) don’t want to impress anyone (on a ‘dress-down’ day),” Woodall said on Thursday, which happened to be a ‘dress-down’ day. “Filters in how they dress, filters in how they say things… are filters that a girl in a coeducational learning environment has to go through to find out where they fit.
“They will be more reluctant to use their voice in the classroom because the social implications of presenting themselves as intelligent don’t always sit well in a co-ed setting.”
Woodall graduated from an all-girls school and has worked in all-girls schools for more than 30 years. And her three daughters attended all-girls schools. If the Jersey City School District wants to start this school, they should reach out to girls.
“If you want to do it right, ask the people you want to influence,” Woodall said. “Don’t make assumptions about what girls need. Do your homework.”