The IDEA Carver Academy on the Eastside is adding a new three-story, 50,000-square-foot college preparatory building across the street from the current 4.5-acre Carver Academy, home to kindergartner through fifth grade students. The first floor will include the new David Robinson Museum. Image courtesy of IDEA Public Schools.

Since established by two former Teach for America students in Donna, Texas, in 1988, IDEA Public Schools have been working in San Antonio, Austin and the Rio Grande Valley to “combat major educational deficiencies they saw in their students, focusing the program on student achievement and college readiness.”

As one of four IDEA public schools in San Antonio, the IDEA Carver Academy has been offering an approach to education for youth on San Antonio’s Eastside since it was founded in 2012 by famed San Antonio Spurs star David Robinson.

From 10:15 to 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 22, school leaders will visit the campus for a groundbreaking ceremony, during which community leaders including Robinson and Mayor Ivy Taylor will announce the expansion of the school to include a new building for sixth through 12th graders.

The new three-story, 50,000-square-foot college preparatory building will be located on a single acre across the street from the current 4.5-acre Carver Academy. The first floor will include the new David Robinson Museum.

“The Carver community recognizes David Robinson as a key figure in the Carver (College) – he has been an incredible proponent in educational reform,” said Rolando Posada, executive director of IDEA San Antonio.

Leaders will also announce the construction of a new 12,000-square-foot gymnasium to be located on the old school property, including a new soccer field.

A rendering of the new layout of IDEA Carver Academy. Image courtesy of IDEA Carver Academy.
A rendering of the new layout of IDEA Carver Academy. Image courtesy of IDEA Public Schools.

Posada said the groundbreaking will be a signature event to celebrate the growth of the school from about 120 students at the time of its founding to its current enrollment of 678 students and an opportunity to create awareness and focus of the school’s existence as an option for lower-income Eastside students.

“Some people drive 35 to 40 minutes to Carver School to get there every day,” he said. “We want to send a message to people living on the Eastside that Carver is here. We want to draw attention. We presently have four fully functioning campuses housing eight schools. Next year, we’ll build two more, and the year after that, we’ll build more.”

The Carver Academy offers kindergarten through eighth grade classes, adding a seventh grade last year and an eighth grade this year. With plans to add ninth through 12th grades by 2018, it will be possible for students to stay enrolled throughout their childhood and young adulthood, Posada noted.

“In San Antonio, if you are low-income and going to school with aspirations to accomplish something in life, the statistics are stacked against you,” Posada said. “(About) 30% of low-income students in San Antonio are able to get through the San Antonio (school system) in six years or less. That is 9%.”

Students learn the same topics they would at a regular public school but also have a powerful learning environment tied to a college-focused culture, he said. Students at Carver take fewer elective classes and there is more of a focus on academics. The College Prep Curriculum is designed to graduate every student ready for college by eliminating the need for remedial courses the first year of college.

“My charge in all of this is to make sure we have 20 high-performing schools in San Antonio by 2017,” he said. “We are projected to grow to 60 schools by 2017, and the majority of that expansion will be in San Antonio. The beginning of our movement is in San Antonio.”

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. Transportation is not provided.

Posada noted that Carver Academy employs a different work ethic than regular public schools.

Through the BetterIDEA program, kindergarteners, first, and second graders learn the new core curriculum and the hybrid-learning component for individualized learning for all students.

The new core curriculum emphasizes carefully planned lessons focused on learning in small increments with instruction geared toward clearly defined teaching tasks. Students work in flexible, homogenous groups in reading, language, and math and are expected to score 90% or higher on daily and weekly assignments, advancing after mastery of concepts.

People at the local schools were apprehensive at first about the establishment of a public charter school in San Antonio, Posada said. “By our third year, we were sharing best practices with local educators … we were the recipients of 13 grants, including a $15-million U.S. government ‘i3’ grant offered through our partnership with the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (Independent School District).”

Visitors to the Eastside campus will have the opportunity to take a tour of the facility at 11:30 a.m. after the ceremony.

Posada said part of the leaders’ message would be about the achievement gap and how schools including IDEA Public Schools are trying to bridge it, among other goals.

“Too many kids are getting the message that they’re not college material. IDEA exists to make college real for all children,” he said. “We like to think all our kids are college material. Our teachers are given phones to communicate with kids and parents and a laptop so they’re maintaining communication with students at home. We want to do whatever it takes to make sure every child gets on a college track.”

The ceremony will take place at IDEA Carver Academy located at 217 Robinson Place.

For more information, contact Alba Urcullu at alba.urcullu@ideapublicschools.org or call (210) 718-9438.

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*Featured image: The IDEA Carver Academy on the Eastside is adding a new three-story, 50,000-square-foot college preparatory building across the street from the current 4.5-acre Carver Academy. The first floor will include the new David Robinson Museum. Image courtesy of IDEA Public Schools.

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Katherine Nickas

Katherine Nickas was born in San Antonio near Fort Sam Houston but grew up in southern Indiana. In 2007, she began working for Indiana AgriNews where she covered topics ranging from corn and soybean production...