Proposed all-girls elementary school for Rochester would center around ‘STEAM’ topics


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A new all-girls elementary school (K-6) could be opening in the City of Rochester, come Fall of 2022. The proposed charter school would focus on STEAM-related topics (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math).

Lindsay Swanson is the founder of the proposed school, Innova Girls Academy. She says the idea behind it is to make education more equitable for girls, and present more bridges to career paths where women have traditionally been minorities. Classes involving lessons on coding, math and engineering would begin as early as kindergarten.

The proposed school stands out from other all-girls in the city, as they would be the first elementary school for girls that focuses on STEAM topics.

“There are so many opportunities in the STEM/STEAM space, technology start-ups, Rochester has always been a hub of innovation,” said Swanson.

But, she says Rochester City girls in particular have been missing out on these opportunities. “Right now in the city, there’s an average of four seats available in all-boys schools compared to one seat available in all-girls schools.”

CaTyra Poland is one of the proposed board members for the school. She went to Nazareth Academy, an all-girls school in Rochester. Growing up and seeing women in high positions there inspired her to join this movement.

“I had mentors that looked like me, not just women but women of color,” she said. “Black women, that was also very important,” said Poland.

“My daughter is going to be four tomorrow. The moment she was born until now, I already see where those pressures come in, the boys are given legos, girls are given dolls,” he said.

Jonathan Nwagbaraocha is the proposed chair for the board. He describes how society paints a picture of the things we associate women and men with from an early age. This can be as simple as the toys we present to them. But what if we removed those boundaries?

In those early moments of life, organizers say you can plant the seed for unlimited opportunities and interests.

Board members say there’s a catch – a school of this nature can’t happen without the support from the community.

Board members are sharing a petition to get enough interest from people for when they go to apply to the NYS Department of Education for approval. You might see them in public places educating and asking for signatures, like La Marketa or The Public Market.

“Without the community the school won’t happen,” said Nwagbaraocha.

The board goes for approval in July of 2021, and hopes to open in the Fall of 2022. They hope to know of approval by this fall.

The school is also partnering with the Girl Scouts of Western New York and will be the state’s first “Girl Scouts Academy”.

Free online coding classes are also being offered now for those who want to get a taste for what attending the school might be like. While these are online, board members say the school would open for students fully in-person, with hopes that the COVID-19 pandemic will be controlled in a year and a half.

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