Dallas ISD reopens campus as first all-girls school

A shuttered Dallas elementary school has been reopened and reinvented into the district's first all-girls school with high hopes and even higher expectations.

Solar Prep School for Girls in East Dallas is where educators are attempting to turn the traditional public school model on its head.

The school is the brainchild of two long-time DISD educators. The school's principal, whose family immigrated from Mexico went to DISD schools herself until she had the opportunity to go to Hockaday, a private all-girls school. She says that type of education changed her life and is hoping it'll do the same for the young girls.

Solar Prep was Bonahm Elementary, an 89-year-old East Dallas staple until it closed in 2012 because of dwindling enrollment.

Parent Magnolia Padilla says the closure was upsetting. Now, her daughter attends Solar Prep.

“She will grow up to be confident and be strong,” Padilla said.

Longtime DISD educators Nancy Bernardino and Jennifer Turner came up with the idea for Solar and pitched to the district an all-girls ‘steam’ school, focusing on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

“It wasn't until we were midway through our proposal that it finally hit me – this is why I went to Hockaday,” Bernardino explained.

Bernardino credits her all-girls school education on scholarship with shaping her life.

“This is why I had to have that experience so that then I could see the impact that being in an environment with all girls can have on an individual,” she explained.

Solar Prep also takes pride in its racial and socioeconomic diversity. Half the girls come from lower income homes, half do not. It's part of the district's public school choice initiative so students can live anywhere in the district. They must apply and are chosen in a lottery system.

But for one single mom, Solar Prep has already made a huge impression.

“This is just a really big opportunity for us,” said Carrie Lackey. “It's a private school education for public school prices.”

Right now, the school is kinder through second grade and will add a grade every year. To accommodate the growth, a new extension will be added to the back of the school.

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