Back on August 23, there was a mix of anxiety and excitement. It was a journey for teachers, administrators, and students at two Hillsborough County schools: Ferrell Middle School became Ferrell Girls Prep Academy, and Franklin Middle turned into Franklin Boys Prep Academy.
They were the first all boys and all girls public schools in Hillsborough County.
So, with the last day of school upon us, we decided to go back to the schools to see how the students fared.
When we first talked to seventh grader Junior Charley in October, he spoke of feeling a new sense of responsibility. Today, Junior says his grades have been on the rise.
"I've improved academically throughout the school year and I've been able to help many others," he offered.
He's grown at least five inches since the beginning of the year. And he's grown a new sense of confidence.
Junior also recently earned a scholarship that he won't need for a few more years -- two years to a community college and another two years to a Florida university.
Junior believes it never would have happened if he wasn't here.
"I'm sure if it wasn't for coming to this school, if I would have stayed at whatever other school I would have gone to, I don't think I would have had this type of chance."
The boys credit rigorous expectations. And without the girls, they don't have the same social pressures.
"I came into this school thinking it's going to be like regular school just without the girls," Eighth grader Juan Prieto said. "Throughout the year I've been realizing, I've really been changing myself to be this greater man."
It's been researched that boys and girls just learn differently. But the controversy over single-gender schools centers on whether they perpetuate stereotypes.
Principal Karen French, from Ferrell Girls Academy, rebuffed that claim. "To me, we're the complete opposite. We don't stereotype, we expose our girls to any and everything."
Her girls say their grades have improved -- a true credit, they say, to the teachers.
"My grades have been projecting upwards and I've gotten better at most of my subjects. It's easier to study because I have more free time," said sixth grader Alley Lopez.
But they still don't miss the boys.
"I love, without the boy drama. Like the 'he said, she said' and then people getting into fights," said Caitlin Morgan, a sixth grader at Ferrell.
Instead of competition, which is what the boys focus on, the girls use three other "C" words as their motivation.
"Are their competent, are they confident, and are they connected? And if they are, that self esteem is going to be there and they're going to be successful."
The girls say they have bonded, forming a sisterhood.
"We've helped each other more. It's more like no kid left behind, like that kind of bond, like real sisters."
The students all plan to return to their schools in the fall, eager to keep up their successful path.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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