IDEA Public Schools have come a long way since they started on the second floor of a church in downtown Donna, Texas, but the mission to keep young people on a college-bound path to success remains strong.
The Carver Academy, one of five IDEA schools located in San Antonio, was founded by former San Antonio Spur David Robinson in 2012. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday morning to celebrate the addition of a three-story, 50,000-square-foot college preparatory building to house sixth through 12th grades. The first floor of the public charter school's new building on its Eastside campus will include the new David Robinson Museum.
Joining Robinson were IDEA Public Schools Founder and CEO Tom Torkelson, Mayor Ivy Taylor, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, IDEA San Antonio Executive Director Rolando Posada, and other key stakeholders that continue to contribute to the school.
“I think this is a big moment for San Antonio, just in our efforts as a city to grow and to improve education for young people,” Robinson said. “Partnering with IDEA has been a phenomenal experience.
"We must have strong students and strong schools to use the tremendous resources at our fingertips,” he added. “We have a big gap to fill in preparing our students at the fourth-grade level for what’s ahead of them. We’ve got to have the continuity coming from the lower grades to prepare them to graduate and to succeed in college.”
Construction has already begun on the building located on a single acre across the street from the current 4.5-acre Carver Academy. The construction will also include a 12,000-square-foot gymnasium.
Torkelson said doubling the size of the school is an essential part of the plan to enroll about 1,200 students at Carver Academy and expand to 20 IDEA schools in San Antonio by 2017.
IDEA’s Expansion Plan includes increasing the number of low-income college graduates in the Rio Grande Valley and Central Texas by 50%. IDEA is opening three new campuses in the 2014-2015 academic school year, two in San Antonio and one in Weslaco.
Steve Harding, the designer of the David Robinson Museum, said the Museum will use the game of basketball as a metaphor for making better life choices.
“We want to show all of David Robinson’s experiences – from his family life to being in the Navy – and bring them together in the museum to showcase who he is beyond just a great athlete,” he said. “We’ll use audio as a way to tell stories, and since they need to be told by David, we will have a live recording of him there so kids can hear his story and benefit from the experience.”
Mayor Taylor emphasized that the reality of a successful path through high school and college is still out of reach for many Texans. She lauded Robinson for confronting the city’s educational challenges and expanding education choices for students and their parents.
“For David and for IDEA, college has been the name of the game since the very beginning,” she said.
The ceremony offered an opportunity for school officials to talk about IDEA Public Schools’ College Prep Curriculum designed to graduate every student ready for college by eliminating the need for remedial courses the first year of college.
As a public charter school, Carver is embedded in the San Antonio Independent School District but operates independently of the district. Carver uses state and federal funds and is held accountable through state testing requirements. Student enrollment is free but transportation is not provided.
“In the past 20 years, the U.S. has gone from the No. 1 producer of college graduates to No. 13,” Torkelson said. “This is not about IDEA Public Schools versus San Antonio Public Schools, but our young people versus the world’s young people ... there's nothing wrong with our school kids that can't be fixed by what's right with the San Antonio school system."
*Set/featured image: David Robinson, founder of the Carver Academy on San Antonio's Eastside, stands with excited students during the groundbreaking of the new College Preparatory School. Photo by Katherine Nickas.