Guide to Enrolling in IDEA Public Schools in San Antonio for 2021–2022

IDEA Public Schools student

IDEA Public Schools is one of the fastest growing and most visible charter school networks in the San Antonio area. On September 1, 2020, IDEA Public Schools campuses began accepting applications for enrollment for the 2020–2021 school year. We have put together a guide to help you learn more about IDEA Public Schools and take steps to enroll your child for the next school year.

About IDEA Public Schools

Since its founding in 2000, IDEA Public Schools has focused on helping children from underserved communities to get ready for college. The student population is over 88 percent economically disadvantaged, and over 34 percent of students are English language learners. Nevertheless, IDEA Public Schools has had 100 percent college acceptance for 14 years and 99.6 percent college matriculation. Several well-established IDEA Public Schools high schools appear in national rankings, including US News & World Report and the Jay Mathews Challenge Index.

In response to COVID-19, IDEA Public Schools closed its campuses from mid-March until May 2020, and students logged in remotely, while the schools cared for students by providing free meals and devices. In August 2020, school resumed with distance learning, and then students started coming back on campus in late September. 

During non-pandemic times, IDEA Public Schools is known for events that celebrate learning, including lively College Signing Day ceremonies when students announce to classmates, friends, and family where they are going to college.

IDEA Public Schools San Antonio College Signing Day 2019

IDEA Public Schools San Antonio College Signing Day 2019

Young students who meet ambitious reading goals can attend parties for Royal Readers.

The College Prep curriculum includes Advanced Placement (AP) courses to help students prepare for college and earn credits to help them finish their degrees sooner. Some, but not all, IDEA Public Schools campuses offer pre-K programs.

For more information about recent events at IDEA Public Schools, we recommend you read some of the news stories linked at the bottom of this post. Also, we invite you to join the San Antonio Charter Moms discussion group on Facebook and ask questions; the group includes current IDEA Public Schools families who can comment with answers about their own experiences.

College Prep students at IDEA Public Schools

IDEA Public Schools in San Antonio

In 2021–22, IDEA Public Schools will have 28 schools on 14 campuses in the San Antonio region. In 2019, on its most recent school report card, the district earned a B rating; the list below includes links to campus school report cards.

Download the free San Antonio Charter Schools app for an interactive map that includes these campuses and many more. You can also find campus information about IDEA Public Schools (and many other schools of choice) on our page Guide to Charter Schools in San Antonio.

IDEA Public Schools students at the luncheon honoring David Robinson | San Antonio Charter Moms

IDEA Public Schools students at a luncheon honoring David Robinson

Enroll at IDEA Public Schools in San Antonio

Families can apply online to enroll their children at IDEA Public Schools. In the San Antonio region, open enrollment for 2020–2021 began on September 1, 2020 and will end at midnight on February 19, 2021. On February 20, 2021, IDEA Public Schools will hold a random lottery, and the students who are selected will receive an email inviting them to register. The other students will be placed on waiting lists; if a spot becomes available, they will be notified. Find more information at IDEA’s FAQs.

During application season, there will be events in the community for families to learn more about IDEA Public Schools. We recommend following the local IDEA Public Schools campuses on social media, as well as joining the San Antonio Charter Moms discussion group on Facebook.

Academy student at an IDEA school

Facts about IDEA Public Schools

IDEA Public Schools has a joyful, hardworking, competitive, high-achieving culture. In turn, every campus has its own mascot, sports teams, and unique features, like the mariachi ensemble at IDEA South Flores and the farm at IDEA Monterrey Park.

Co-founders JoAnn Gama and Tom Torkelson started IDEA (an acronym for “Individuals Dedicated to Excellence and Achievement”) as a school-within-a-school in 1998 in Donna, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley. In 2000, IDEA Public Schools applied for and became a Generation 4 charter school. In 2018, Gama and Torkelson were inducted into the Charter School Hall of Fame. Gama is currently the CEO and Superintendent of IDEA Public Schools, while Torkelson recently became the CEO of Choose to Succeed, a nonprofit organization working to attract the nation’s best public charter schools to San Antonio. 

IDEA Public Schools’ headquarters are still in the Rio Grande Valley, but the network is expanding in other regions of Texas—including Austin, El Paso, Tarrant County, Greater Houston, and the Permian Basin—as well as Southern Louisiana and beyond.

David Robinson at IDEA's San Antonio College Signing Day 2019

David Robinson at IDEA’s San Antonio College Signing Day 2019

Basketball legend David Robinson is on the regional board for IDEA Public Schools in San Antonio. Robinson and his wife founded Carver Academy as a private school in 2001, and in 2012 it became IDEA Carver—the first IDEA Public Schools campus in San Antonio. IDEA Carver College Prep is now home to a David Robinson museum.

If you like what you have learned so far about IDEA Public Schools, we recommend that you apply for enrollment now. You are also welcome to join the San Antonio Charter Moms discussion group to learn more and interact with current IDEA Public Schools families.

Academy teacher and students at an IDEA school

Charter Moms Chats

Watch JoAnn Gama, Co-Founder, CEO, and Superintendent of IDEA Public Schools, speak with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on October 7, 2020 at 4 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.

JoAnn Gonzales Gama was born and raised in the north side of Houston. After graduating from Sam Houston High School in 1993, JoAnn attended Boston University on a full scholarship. In 1997, she joined Teach For America, a national corps of high-achieving leaders who commit two years to teach in public schools in low-income communities. Upon moving to the Rio Grande Valley, JoAnn enrolled at the University of Texas-Pan American and earned her master’s degree in Educational Leadership. JoAnn taught 4th and 5th grade English as a Second Language in Donna, Texas. After one successful year of teaching, JoAnn was nominated by her peers as the campus Teacher of the Year.

In 1998, JoAnn co-founded IDEA Academy within Donna Independent School District with fellow Teach For America corps member Tom Torkelson. After one year as a “school within a school,” JoAnn and Tom applied for a state charter in order to open their own charter school. In August 2000, they opened the IDEA Academy with 150 students in grades 4–8.

As co-founder and Superintendent, JoAnn has helped lead the replication efforts of the original school. Currently, IDEA Public Schools educates nearly 66,000 students in 120 schools across eight regions—the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Southern Louisiana, Tarrant County, Permian Basin and Greater Houston. In 2020, JoAnn was appointed to be IDEA’s Chief Executive Officer and currently serves as the network’s CEO and Superintendent.

JoAnn resides in Edinburg, Texas with her husband, Juan, and their two children, Gael and Jimena, both IDEA Edinburg students

Read More about IDEA Public Schools

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