Guide to Enrolling in San Antonio ISD Choice Schools for 2020–2021

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Families looking for school choice options should look closely at San Antonio ISD, a traditional public school district that is actually one of the busiest charter school authorizers in Texas. On November 5, 2019, San Antonio ISD’s enrollment office began accepting applications for the 2020–21 school year. We have put together a guide to help you learn more about SAISD Choice Schools and take steps to enroll your child for the next school year.

About San Antonio ISD

Founded in 1899, SAISD is the third largest school district in Bexar County, and the 13th largest in Texas. The district boundaries include San Antonio’s central business district, world-renowned tourism hubs, posh historic neighborhoods, and areas of multigenerational poverty. Over the decades, SAISD enrollment has ebbed and flowed based on redlining, white flight to the suburbs, the growth of charter schools, and gentrification, but recently has stabilized at about 49,000 students.

Since 2015, when Pedro Martinez became superintendent, San Antonio ISD has adopted a System of Great Schools model. A traditional public school district can evolve into a 21st century education system by adopting some of the best practices of charter schools, such as offering families a variety of educational models, giving more autonomy to campus-level school leaders, and closing the least effective schools in the portfolio. These strategies give traditional public school districts the opportunity to effectively compete with charter schools for student enrollment, and they have the long-term effect of raising the overall quality of public education in a community.

SAISD is working deliberately to ensure that families of all socioeconomic levels have equitable access to choice schools. Chief Innovation Officer Mohammed Choudhury and his team studied census tracts in SAISD for factors such as income level, educational attainment, single-parent households, and home ownership. At SAISD choice schools, some seats are reserved for students from the most underprivileged census blocks, with a goal of creating diverse-by-design schools

To read more about SAISD in the news, we recommend that you click on the articles linked at the bottom of this post, and also visit SAISD’s newsroom. Also, we invite you to join the San Antonio Charter Moms discussion group on Facebook and ask questions; the group includes current SAISD families who can comment with answers based on their own experiences.

San Antonio ISD Choice Schools

In 2020–21, San Antonio ISD will operate over 90 schools, of which 39 are choice schools, or have a choice/magnet program. Magnet programs in this district (aside from YWLA Secondary) are not selective, meaning they require no additional screening or testing to enroll. SAISD earned a B on its most recent district report card—a significant improvement over years past. The list below includes links to each campus’s school report cards. 

SAISD’s Office of Access and Enrollment Services has online resources and in-person help for families who are navigating choice schools. Here are some quick links to essential information on the web:

  • On this page, find a downloadable version of the Experience SAISD Enrollment Guide, a comprehensive view of SAISD’s choice schools. Spiral-bound, printed copies are also available free at the Pickett Family Center and at events like Experience SAISD. 
  • On this page, find a one-page overview of lottery categories and priorities. (If you’re more familiar with open enrollment charter schools, which have a lottery for every grade, you may be surprised to find that SAISD choice schools have “lottery grades” and “waitlist grades”; look up each campus on the choice schools list to find which grades are which.) Also find an explanation of how the lottery works and other helpful guides.
  • This page has information for SAISD parents, including a school directory that lists addresses, principals, etc. for all campuses in the district, a list of school calendars, links to uniform policies, student handbooks, transportation—all kinds of useful stuff. 

To get in-person help on SAISD enrollment, meet with the staff at the Pickett Family Center, 1931 E. Houston St. San Antonio, TX 78202 (map). Call the Office of Access and Enrollment Services at 210-554-2660 or text them at 210-309-3259. Email them at

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 choice schools in SAISD choice schools (and other networks) on our page Guide to Charter Schools in San Antonio.

Enroll at San Antonio ISD Choice Schools

To register their students at SAISD, families can apply online or download a paper application. According the school choice timeline, the application window for 2020–2021 opened on November 5, 2019 and will close on January 31, 2020. Offers will be announced on February 12, 2020; the deadline to accept those offers is February 28, 2020. Another round of offers will go out to waitlisted families on March 3, and those families will have two business days to accept. For schools that still have seats available, a second application window will open in March and close on March 26, 2020. Find more information at SAISD’s Frequently Asked Questions.

SAISD is offering a variety of events for families to get to know its choice schools and programs. Learn about upcoming events on the web and on social media.

  • Experience SAISD is the district’s flagship school choice event. This year, it will be on January 11, 2020 from 10 AM to 2 PM at the Freeman Expo Hall, 3201 E. Houston St., San Antonio, TX 78219 (map). It’s a free event with fun activities for all ages. For transportation, families can get a free shuttle ride to and from the Expo Hall from a high school in their neighborhood.
  • General information sessions are welcoming for parents who are getting to know school choice at SAISD and want an overview of school models and how to apply. Meeting times vary—mornings or evenings—and most are in the cafeteria at the Burnet Learning Center (where the school board meets), 406 Barrera St., San Antonio, TX 78210 (map). Upcoming meeting dates: January 23, 2020 at 5-6 PM at the Burbank High School Testing Center, March 28, 2020 at 9-10 AM at Burnet, and April 27, 2020 at 5-6 PM at Burnet.
  • School information sessions are a good way for families to learn more about particular schools they are interested in for their children. Find dates and times for school information sessions by visiting the list of choice schools and programs and clicking on the school you are interested in; then, scroll to the bottom and click the + to expand the section on information sessions. These events are also listed on the social media pages for each campus. 
  • In November, SAISD offered bus tours that started at the Burnet Learning Center and visited several campuses. Look for these events to repeat next year.

We also recommend following these SAISD social media accounts:

In addition, please join the San Antonio Charter Moms discussion group on Facebook to post questions and search for previous discussions about SAISD choice schools.

San Antonio ISD as a System of Great Schools 

In our school guides, we usually give an overview of the school culture. Many charter school networks take pride in being able to successfully replicate their distinctive school culture from the founding campus to new campuses across the state and beyond. SAISD is different because it’s a traditional public school district that has embraced the System of Great Schools model. In effect, SAISD’s Office of Innovation is a charter authorizer operating a portfolio of schools with different models and partnerships. So, without going into depth about any particular school model, we will group and summarize the most significant school models in SAISD and identify their partners. 

These SAISD choice schools do not have outside partners, but their innovation is driven internally by the process of developing and following a charter—the mission that makes them distinctive: Ball Academy, Barkley-Ruiz Elementary, Bonham Academy, Davis Middle School, Rhodes Middle School, Hawthorne Academy, Martin Luther King Academy, Steele Montessori, and Young Men’s Leadership Academy.

Organizations That Lift Up San Antonio ISD

SAISD’s turnaround efforts have been under intense scrutiny for the past several years. We encourage readers to not just sit on the sidelines, but to get involved in the effort. The success of SAISD benefits the whole community, from the students and their families, to the future well-educated workforce. Here are some suggestions of ways to get involved:

We also recommend keeping an eye on the organizations that are influencing policy in SAISD, including Chiefs for Change and City Education Partners.

To get involved in parent advocacy, ask to join Mindshift ED and Parents for Progress—We Support SAISD.

San Antonio ISD is going through a transformation. For education policy nerds, particularly those who follow district-charter partnerships, it’s one of the most interesting school districts in the United States right now. For families, it’s a brave new world of navigating school choice, with interesting new school models to explore. The education reformers, the families of SAISD students, and the entire community are hoping that this period of change results in a successful urban school district that provides high quality education equitably to all its residents. The early signs show that SAISD is making progress towards that goal. 

Read More About San Antonio ISD

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