As demand rises, charters open new schools in San Antonio
July 31, 2018
Source: San Antonio Express-News
Despite the continued growth of charter schools across San Antonio, newly released data shows that demand is so high for seats at several high-profile charter networks that thousands are remaining on wait lists.
The data, released last month by Families Empowered, a Houston-based nonprofit that advocates for school choice, shows that IDEA Public Schools, KIPP Texas-San Antonio and Great Hearts Academies received a collective 39,214 applications in San Antonio for the 2017-18 school year.
IDEA, which operates the most schools in San Antonio, received the most applications by far with 26,532, while Great Hearts had 6,860 and KIPP 5,822, according to the report. Those figures include multiple applications from the same families, who are competing for a limited number of available seats.
The high interest in those charter networks is fueling their continued growth across the city.
IDEA, which opened six new schools at three campuses in San Antonio in the last school year, is opening two new schools this fall, Ingram Hills Academy and Ingram Hills College Prep at a campus on the Northwest side, as part of a comprehensive expansion plan across the city and, more broadly, Texas.
Great Hearts will open its new Western Hills campus this fall for the 2018-19 school year, and KIPP has unspecified plans to open two new schools in San Antonio within the next few years, a spokeswoman said.
Last year, IDEA received a big nod of support from the U.S. Department of Education in the form of a $67 million grant, money that will be used to continue building schools in San Antonio and Texas and in Louisiana for the first time. The original plan was to build 10 additional schools in Bexar County over the next five years, but that number has since been revised to at least 15 based on strong interest from families, said Rolando Posada, executive director of IDEA San Antonio.
Even in light of those rapid plans for expansion, seats remain limited. For the 2017-18 school year, IDEA had 18,529 applicants for just 3,530 available seats at its San Antonio schools, Posada said.
“It doesn’t take us long when we launch schools for our demand to outstrip seats,” Posada said.
Because of that, new students are admitted through a lottery system, with students who already have siblings at IDEA schools given slight priority, he added.
A similar situation has been playing out at the two other charter networks in the report. KIPP, which operates six schools in San Antonio, had 1,512 students on its wait list during the 2017-18 school year and more than 2,000 students the two previous years. KIPP calculates the wait list numbers following the spring lotteries. The network’s 5,800-plus applications for 2017-18 represent the most KIPP has ever received in San Antonio, according to KIPP spokeswoman Ieesha Collins.
In July, the KIPP schools in San Antonio merged with the other three KIPP charter networks in Texas to form one overarching organization, KIPP Texas Public Schools. The consolidation makes KIPP one of the largest charter networks in the state, second only to IDEA. The move will allow for growth and the ability to provide additional seats to students, Collins said.
The last two school years, KIPP received the most applications at Esperanza Dual Language Academy and Un Mundo Dual Language Academy, located southwest and west of downtown, respectively.
After focusing on opening new schools on the East Side, Posada said IDEA San Antonio plans to shift its energies to north and northwest areas of the city, the fastest-growing portions of San Antonio.
That area is also where Great Hearts is opening its newest campus, Western Hills. Located on the far West Side on Ingram Road, the school is expected to serve around 560 students in kindergarten through fourth grade. It will add grade levels until it serves students up to 12th grade, when it could reach a full enrollment of around 1,400.
Last year, Great Hearts officials said it had a wait list of 4,000 students.
Several Bexar County districts, including North East, South San Antonio and San Antonio ISDs, have reported significant enrollment drops that have partially been attributed to competition from charter schools.
Lauren Caruba covers several school districts, charter schools and private universities in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read her on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @LaurenCaruba