LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The nation’s second-largest school district is set to open its first GALA, or Girls Academic Leadership Academy on Los Angeles High School’s Mid-City campus.

The school is a first of its kind in California and was modeled after single-sex schools in New York and Texas.

Though it opens in three weeks, CBS Los Angeles got a sneak peak as parents, students and staff prepare.

“I really love engineering and science,” said 11-year-old Samantha Kissane, a student who volunteered to help get her new school ready.

The school’s focus is on STEM, short for science, technology, engineering, and math.

“Just the fact that Samantha is going to be able to reach her potential. I’m very excited about that,” said Samantha’s mother, Veronica Kissane.

Kissane says Samantha had been in an after-school engineering program at her previous charter school.

“There were no girls and so she was upset. She was the only one in there and she was crying, saying, ‘I don’t want to go back even though I love the class. I feel weird being the only one,’ ” Kissane said.

“Girls and boys are completely equal in math and science scores in elementary school but once the kids hit middle school, the girls scores started to drop and they dropped even further in high school,” said Principal Liz Hicks.

The school is the brainchild of Hicks, whose two daughters went to an all-girls school on scholarships.

“When I saw what was going on in the all-girls school for them, I thought, ‘Why can’t we bring this model to LAUSD?’ ” said Hicks. “Girls right now in LA, they can only go to an all-girls school if they have a fair amount of money.”

Hicks is a longtime LAUSD employee who made it happen.

The school will be welcoming students from 51 schools and 39 zip codes, a large amount of whom are from private and charter schools.

“It’s very diverse school, economically, racially, in every way,” she said.

As for Kassine, she says she’s excited for the sisterhood her daughter will experience.

The school is taking more applications. So far, 155 girls are enrolled and they’re starting with grades 6th through 9th. An all-boys STEM program will open next year.

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