With The Iron Yard shutting down all of its campuses, including in D.C., and Dev Bootcamp closing its doors in other cities, it doesn’t seem like the ripe time to expand a coding school.

But the team at Boston-based Launch Academy thinks they’ve found a way around that.

The plan? To open a women-only coding program in Washington, D.C. this fall. They’re hoping their specific focus on creating a women-only space in the District will help them stand out from the competition, like General Assembly.

Called Prism Shift, the women-only program would be a first-of-its-kind offering for both Launch Academy and the District. The program includes eight weeks of pre-course online prep to get all of the students on the same page, and 10 weeks of in-class bootcamp instruction. Launch Academy is aiming to have 18 students enrolled in the first cohort.

Tamara Monroe, Launch Academy

“When we were thinking about a place to fit this mission, D.C. came up as an obvious place for this,” said Tamara Monroe, Launch Academy’s marketing manager. “D.C. leads the nation (for women in tech). We needed a city that would be really receptive and passionate about this idea.”

Online instruction for the school starts on Oct. 2, and in-class instruction would soon follow, starting on Dec. 4. Launch Academy is currently building up a space in Dupont Circle for instruction. While they could not release the address yet, Monroe said they’ll be located within a co-working space in the neighborhood.

Monroe said that the staff for the first cohort would include four instructors and mentors and a career services placement manager, all based in D.C. Staff members from Launch’s Boston and Philadelphia locations will also make appearances throughout the cohort, too.

After the course ends, students are guaranteed career search support, basically until they land a position. The program culminates in a final capstone project presentation, and possible employers from around the area are invited to come listen and speak with the graduates. Many students are offered jobs on the spot, Monroe said. “After kickoff, those who aren’t picked up on that day will get career services indefinitely until they find that position,” she said.

One thing Monroe said she’s faced while advertising the program is just the simple question of “Why?” A few people question the practicality of a women-only space when the real world doesn’t operate that way.

“But a classroom is not supposed to emulate a work environment,” Monroe said. “Women are faced with different barriers than men are. This classroom removes those barriers so there are not barriers to learning.”

“We want women students to learn comfortably, so they can be strong candidates when they leave the program.”

Launch Academy doesn’t have concrete plans to take the women-only program to other markets right now or to bring its co-ed programs to the District just yet. They pride themselves on their “wait-and-see” approach, Monroe said.

“We have always practiced a slow growth model. It’s something we whole-heartedly believe in,” Monroe said. “We’re very much invested in the quality of the education and the job placement aspect of the student experience. If growth is going to impede the program, we will not explore that.”

It’s that slow growth model that Monroe said will differentiate Launch Academy from the competition.

“The major differentiator for us is the women-only program,” Monroe said. “We want to see how it goes with D.C. first, we want to make sure it’s a success. Who knows moving forward.”

Image courtesy of Launch Academy