IDEA Public Schools in the San Antonio region are focused on having students back in school, safely learning together. The 2021–22 school year started on August 10, 2021, and a dialogue is underway between families who have questions about on-campus learning, Covid safety, accelerating academic progress, and social and emotional wellness. The IDEA Public Schools team answered our questions about back to school in 2021.
Staying Safe on Campus
With all students coming back to school in person, how is IDEA Public Schools keeping students safely learning together?
As we plan for the 2021–22 school year, we will continue to look to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and national, state, and local health experts to guide our safety protocols for in-person instruction.
As we learned last school year, each phase of the pandemic requires specific prevention, mitigation, and response strategies that make the most sense for the current environment.
What are the health and safety protocols that IDEA San Antonio is following?
- Temperature checks and self-screening for all students and staff before arriving to campus each day using IDEA’s self-screening tool.
- Health services staff re-checking temperatures throughout the day if symptoms appear.
- Campus visitors will be limited and will be screened accordingly.
- Face masks are not required but are highly encouraged for the 2021–22 school year for all staff, students, families and visitors to an IDEA campus. The latest guidance from the CDC, announced on July 27, 2021, recommends that everyone in K–12 schools wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.
- IDEA will provide replaceable face masks on campus for individuals who need a replacement.
Social Distancing: IDEA will implement social distancing whenever possible both on campus and on buses.
General Health and Safety Protocols
- Students and staff will practice hand hygiene throughout the day.
- IDEA facilities team will continue to disinfect all high touch surfaces during the day and the entire building each night.
- Classrooms will be supplied with disinfecting supplies, including wipes or spray bottles and towels.
- IDEA has invested in enhancements to ventilation systems in school buildings and buses, including improved filters, air purifiers, and increased outside air intake.
- In alignment with state and CDC recommendations, IDEA will consult with local health authorities when a positive COVID case is reported on campus. IDEA will follow local guidance regarding whether certain students or staff are recommended to quarantine. Based on updated guidance from the state, school districts cannot require quarantine for students unless directed by the local health authority.
- Individuals who are fully vaccinated and two weeks out from their second dose (if applicable) will not be required to quarantine if they do not have symptoms.
Safety protocols for the San Antonio region are posted online.
Benefits of Having Students on Campus
What did you learn from the past school year (2020–21) about the performance, on average, of distance learning students versus on campus students?
We learned that in-person learning is the best option for students. Inside IDEA schools, there is more joy and rigor, the best academic and social-emotional experience and development for scholars, and a safe learning environment that continues to follow CDC guidelines.
Research shows that students learn more when they are in-person at school versus virtual learning.
Does being on campus benefit students in terms of social emotional learning?
Yes, through seeing body language, engaging in conversations, and socializing through class and play, students participate in valuable social and emotional learning practices every day in the classroom. These experiences increase a sense of well-being, belonging and comfort.
The school day also provides students with structure and routine, as well as access to caring adults who can support students with a range of emotions they might be feeling on a daily basis.
Students participating in in-person instruction also gain access to extracurricular activities, such as sports and after-school programs, which are fun ways to supplement and enhance the classroom learning. They also have frequent and safe access to their friends and peers, helping them feel excited about school and be more engaged in the classroom.
Because of these social and academic benefits, we believe it’s important to have students back in school, safely learning together.
Academic Support for Students Who Are Back in School
What are IDEA schools in the San Antonio region doing to evaluate where students are at now and help them make faster progress towards their learning goals?
We are following through with the expectations with HB 4545 to ensure that our highest priority scholars’ needs are met with targeted intervention.
Prior to receiving news of HB 4545, our curriculum team had already incorporated an accelerating learning plan in place for our teachers to identify gaps in scholars’ learning and provide scholars with the appropriate level of learning they need to fill in those gaps through the use of online platforms. We have a ratio of 1-to-1 technology for scholars in grades PK–12 and have specific programs to use that to address foundational gaps as needed.
How are IDEA San Antonio schools helping students and families make the transition of back to school?
Events that are used to prepare students for the new school year include Welcome to IDEA, Meet the Teacher Nights, and Culture Camp.
Parents are also able to visit our back-to-school site for all their back-to-school information.
Supporting Social-Emotional Learning for Students
What are schools doing to support social and emotional learning for students?
We are implementing more Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in our classrooms to support our students as they come back in school, safely learning together.
After a rough and uncertain year, we are being intentional about making sure our students have all needs met inside and outside of the classroom. We will continue to implement our SEL curriculum, Move This World, which helps our students learn to process their emotions and develop coping skills as they adapt to the twist and turns of life. We are also preparing to meet the basic needs of our students and families by securing food bags, personal hygiene kits, and clothing for the upcoming year. Lastly, we have developed a calendar of community, student, and family engagement events to build community beyond the classroom.
Also, schools in the San Antonio region are hiring more counselors and social workers to support students’ mental health.
Communicating with Parents About Safely Learning Together
Are the campuses making an extra effort to communicate with parents about health and safety, as well as helping students perform better academically?
The relationship we have with you, our parents, is our top priority. Our partnership will help ensure your student is successful in and out of the classroom.
Listed below are the tools your school will use to keep you up to date, informed and engaged in the day-to-day work of your student.
- Social media, including national Facebook and Instagram accounts, and pages for each IDEA campus
- Parent Weekly, an email newsletter from each campus (e.g., IDEA Carver)
In addition, schools want to hear from parents! We believe it is important to have two-way communication and encourage parents to reach out and let us know what they have questions about, how we can help or ideas of how to improve their experience.
Enrollment and Growth
What do we need to know about the new campus opening this year, IDEA Amber Creek?
The newest IDEA Public Schools campus in the San Antonio region is IDEA Amber Creek, located at 10170 Kriewald Road, San Antonio, TX 78245 (map). In its first year, campus is serving students in grades PK–1 and 6; next year, it will be PK–2 and 6–7, up to grades PK–12 when fully scaled.
Open enrollment for the 2022–23 school year will begin on September 1, 2021. IDEA Public Schools plans to keep growing in San Antonio and regions across the U.S. Look for more information when the enrollment guide post gets updated in September. In the meantime, we are focused on welcoming students back in school, safely learning together.
Charter Moms Chats
Watch Angie Arismendi, Executive Director of IDEA Public Schools San Antonio region, and Carlos Benavides, Regional Vice President of Operations for IDEA Public Schools San Antonio, speak with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on August 17, 2021 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.
Angie Arismendi started her journey at IDEA Quest College Prep as an ELA and Humanities Teacher. In 2007, she was promoted to Dean of Faculty and Students at IDEA Quest, which is now in the top 1 percent of high schools in Texas. Later, Angie took her expertise to the national team and became the Director of Student Intervention and then Director of Primary Program. In 2010, Angie started her first principalship role at IDEA Alamo. She has launched and led eight IDEA Schools across the RGV, Austin, and San Antonio regions; she earned IDEA’s Turn-Around Campus of the Year in 2012 and the What Ever It Takes Core Value Award in Central Texas in 2013.
During the past seven years, Angie has managed a total of 17 IDEA schools as a Senior Vice President of Schools. As she coaches and develops principals, her portfolio currently has 67 percent of schools projected to be “A” rated for the 2020–21 school year. As one of Angie’s portfolio powerhouses, IDEA Carver College Prep is ranked 38th best high school in Texas and 4th best in San Antonio; 100 percent of Carver College Prep seniors will be matriculating to college for the third year in a row.
As one of IDEA’s San Antonio leaders, Angie has increased student persistence by 17 percent in six years by creating systematic operating mechanisms and driving the professional development of leaders. She also has improved PK–2nd grade DI outcomes through strategic collaboration and her management of DI Program Managers for the past five years; SA has lead in DI most of the year.
Carlos Benavides is the Regional Vice President of Operations for IDEA Public Schools San Antonio. Carlos started his journey at IDEA Public Schools nine years ago. He began as a teacher at IDEA Frontier in Brownsville, Texas, and then to Assistant Principal of Operations at IDEA Weslaco. His High Performing APO Pathway Placement carried him into his most recent role as Regional VP of Operations at IDEA San Antonio.
IDEA’s mission of sending 100 percent of students to and through college has been his “why” behind his actions in current and past roles. As an example of the American dream himself, Carlos strives forward for IDEA San Antonio and proving the possible for our scholars.
Read More About IDEA Public Schools
- “Making a Difference at IDEA Monterrey Park College Prep,” San Antonio Charter Moms, January 21, 2021
- “Strong Start 2020: IDEA Public Schools Back to School Plan for 2020–21,” San Antonio Charter Moms, September 8, 2020
- “Guide to Enrolling in IDEA Public Schools in San Antonio for 2020–2021,” San Antonio Charter Moms, September 11, 2019
- “AP For All: IDEA Public Schools in San Antonio Gives All Students Access to Advanced Placement Courses,” San Antonio Charter Moms, September 18, 2017
Read More About Back to School in 2021
- “Incarnate Word Virtual High School Offers Catholic Online School for Girls,” Anne Schaefer-Salinas, San Antonio Charter Moms, August 18, 2021
- “Prelude Prep Welcomes Students for Its First School Year on San Antonio’s Southside,” San Antonio Charter Moms, August 2, 2021
- “Empowering Parents Through Communication,” Justin Johnston, San Antonio Charter Moms, August 2, 2021
- “All About the Royal Public Schools Campus,” San Antonio Charter Moms, July 15, 2021