Guide to Enrolling in IDEA Public Schools in San Antonio for 2024–25

IDEA Public Schools San Antonio College Signing Day 2022 1

IDEA Public Schools is one of the largest and most visible charter school networks in the San Antonio area. On September 1, 2023, IDEA Public Schools campuses began accepting applications for enrollment for the 2024–25 school year. The lottery will be on February 18, 2024. In addition, there are open seats at some campuses and grade levels for the current 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

Founded in 2000, IDEA Public Schools is focused on helping children from underserved communities to get ready for college. In 2021, the student population was over 88 percent economically disadvantaged, and over 34 percent of students were English language learners. IDEA Public Schools’ mission is to help prepare every student to go to and through college. Several well-established IDEA Public Schools college prep campuses appear in national rankings of high schools, including US News & World Report and the Jay Mathews Challenge Index. Over the last 16 years, IDEA has sent nearly 100 percent of its graduates to college and remains on track to uphold that legacy.

As students return to campuses for the 2023–24 school year, IDEA Public Schools is emphasizing campus safety and security. All staff have received safety training to follow IDEA’s Standard Response Protocol. In addition, all IDEA campuses are closed campuses to ensure only students, staff, parents and authorized visitors are allowed on campus.

IDEA Public Schools continues its traditions for events that celebrate learning, including College Signing Day ceremonies when students announce to classmates, friends, and family where they are going to college. For the 2022–23 school year, the IDEA San Antonio Class of 2023 racked up over 2,000 college acceptances and over $70 million in scholarships and grants. Of the senior class, 77 percent are first generation students to attend college.

IDEA Public Schools San Antonio College Signing Day 2022 2

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. As of 2022, 30 percent of graduating seniors at IDEA Public Schools are AP Scholars, which exceeds the national average. 

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.

IDEA Public Schools student

IDEA Public Schools in San Antonio

In 2024–25, IDEA Public Schools will have 30 schools on 15 campuses in the San Antonio region. On its most recent school report card, the district earned a B rating; the list below includes links to 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.

David Robinson at IDEA Public Schools San Antonio College Signing Day 2019
David Robinson at IDEA Public Schools San Antonio College Signing Day 2019

Enroll at IDEA Public Schools in San Antonio

Families can apply online to enroll their children at IDEA Public Schools. Some campuses have openings for students in some grade levels for the current school year.

In the San Antonio region, open enrollment for 2024–25 began on September 1, 2023 and will end at 11:50 PM CST on February 17, 2024. On February 18, 2024, 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 local IDEA Public Schools campuses on social media.

We also recommend joining the interest list for prospective IDEA Public Schools families and joining the San Antonio Charter Moms discussion group on Facebook to post questions and search previous discussions about IDEA Public Schools.

Academy student at IDEA Public Schools

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. The schools support the health and wellness of students and their families by emphasizing healthy eating and physical education.

IDEA is an acronym for “Individuals Dedicated to Excellence and Achievement.” It was founded 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. Dr. Jeff Cottrill is the CEO and Superintendent of IDEA Public Schools, and Cody Grindle is the President.

IDEA Public Schools’ headquarters are still in the Rio Grande Valley, but the network has expanded in other regions of Texas—including Austin, El Paso, Tarrant County, Greater Houston, and the Permian Basin—as well as Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, Florida; and Cincinnati, Ohio.

IDEA Public Schools San Antonio College Signing Day 2022 3

Basketball legend David Robinson is on the regional board for IDEA Public Schools in San Antonio. Robinson and his wife, Valerie, 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. At IDEA Ambrose & Freda Robinson, their mascot—the Admirals—was chosen in Robinson’s honor.

IDEA Public Schools is a partner with Choose to Succeed, a nonprofit organization working to attract the nation’s best public charter schools to San Antonio.

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 IDEA Public Schools

Charter Moms Chats

Watch Ernesto Cantu, Chief Schools Officer at IDEA Public Schools, speak with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on September 5, 2023 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.

Ernie Cantu was born on June 20, 1970, in Caldwell, Idaho to migrant parents. He was raised in a colonia in south Pharr, Texas called Las Milpas. He graduated from Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (PSJA) high school in 1988. He joined the U.S Army soon after graduating and served his country until 1991 mostly overseas in West Germany, and during Operation Desert Shield/Storm in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait.

In 1992, he began attending the University of Texas—Pan American (UTPA) in Edinburg, Texas. He graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in English. Shortly thereafter, he began teaching 7th grade English Language Arts at Alamo Middle School (PSJA) in Alamo, Texas. In 2000, he began teaching GED and ESL classes for Windham ISD at Lopez and Segovia State Jails in Edinburg, Texas.

In 2003 he began working at IDEA Public Schools as a part-time after-school and Saturday school tutor and as an adult ESL instructor. In August 2004, he transitioned fully from Windham ISD to IDEA Public Schools to teach 6th grade math at IDEA Academy in Donna, Texas. In December of 2004, he received a Master’s in Education from the University of Texas—Pan American.

Ernie worked at four IDEA campuses—Donna, Frontier (Brownsville), San Benito, and Pharr—and has been a founding staff member at three of them. During his time at IDEA Public Schools, he has been a classroom teacher, Director of New Site Development, Director of Operations/Assistant Principal of Operations, Principal at IDEA College Prep Pharr (which is located in the same colonia, Las Milpas, where he was raised), a Senior Vice President of Schools, and Executive Director of El Paso.

As Chief of Schools Officer, Ernie oversees all IDEA regions and campuses in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Ohio, as well as the organization’s Student Support Services and Talent Development teams. He has been part of the Team & Family for nearly 20 years.

A graduate of the Educational Leadership doctoral program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Ernie now resides in El Paso with his wife, Cindy, his daughter, Klarissa, and his son, Ernesto Emiliano.

Read More about IDEA Public Schools

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