Future students and families gathered with school leaders and philanthropists under a white tent pitched on a flat, 6-acre rectangle of land located on the west side of San Antonio, near the intersection of Highways 90 and 151. A warm breeze blew the organic smell of fill dirt, and heavy equipment, including graders and steamrollers, continued working on the site throughout the ceremony.
The first Carpe Diem public charter schools were located in Yuma, Arizona; the network has expanded to Indiana (earlier post) and Ohio (earlier post). The Commissioner of Education approved Carpe Diem’s Texas charter application in 2013, as discussed in this earlier post.
Carpe Diem is known for its innovative school model, using technology to provide students with instruction that’s adapted to their level. Carpe Diem Westwood will open in August 2015, serving grades 6-10 in 2015-16, and expanding each year to eventually serve grades 6-12.
By building a campus in San Antonio, Carpe Diem will join a portfolio of schools supported by Choose to Succeed, a harbormaster organization that has been working to bring high-performing, high-growth charter school networks to San Antonio. The Choose to Succeed portfolio includes KIPP San Antonio, IDEA Public Schools, BASIS San Antonio & BASIS San Antonio North, and Great Hearts Texas. As these schools expand, they have the potential to dramatically increase the number students from San Antonio who are well-prepared to enter college and complete four-year degrees, and hopefully return to San Antonio to fuel rapid economic development for the next generation.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Brandon Seale, Board Chair of Carpe Diem Innovative Schools—San Antonio, emphasized the benefit of bringing Carpe Diem’s personalized learning model to San Antonio.
Nick Fleege, the Superintendent of Carpe Diem Innovative Schools—San Antonio, thanked the people who helped make the school happen.
Victoria Rico, Chairwoman and trustee of the George W. Brackenridge Foundation, recalled her first meeting with Carpe Diem leaders in 2011, when it seemed like a long shot that they would choose San Antonio for expansion.
Joe Bruno, President of Washington, D.C.-based Building Hope, shared his enthusiasm for helping to create a new facility for Carpe Diem Westwood, but stressed the importance of the teachers and students who will bring the school to life.
Bob Sommers, CEO of Carpe Diem Learning Systems, and Valerie Robertson, Principal of Carpe Diem Westwood, expressed eagerness to get the school ready for operation. Robertson said she is actively recruiting students and is available to answer questions about the school.
An eager group of future students joined the adults to don hard hats and pick up shovels to turn over scoops of dirt. The industrious kids kept shoveling, even after the photo ops were over and the adults had scattered to share news and congratulations.
While talking to future students, I realized how Carpe Diem Westwood fills a niche like no other school in San Antonio. Casaleah Coyne, pictured below next to Principal Robertson, started at a charter school in Arizona; after moving to Texas, her family realized that their neighborhood public school was not meeting her needs, so her dad began homeschooling her. To make it possible for Casaleah to attend 8th grade at Carpe Diem, the family is relocating to San Antonio from their home in a small Hill Country town, and her mom is looking for a new job. Casaleah is an aspiring actress and is looking forward to exploring San Antonio.
Carpe Diem Westwood is still accepting applications for the 2015-16 school year. Students can apply online or visit the temporary office in downtown San Antonio at 700 North Saint Mary’s St., Suite 880, San Antonio, Texas 78205. The address at the new campus will be 8038 W. Military Dr., San Antonio, Texas 78227.
Read more: “Carpe Diem Groundbreaking Education”, Bekah McNeel, Rivard Report, May 2, 2015.