Members of the Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education approved two new charter schools in the San Antonio area.
Members of the Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education approved two new charter schools in the San Antonio area. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The State Board of Education approved two new charter schools for the San Antonio area at a meeting Friday.

The new charter schools, The Gathering Place and San Antonio Preparatory Charter School, are expected to open in the 2020-21 school year.

The Gathering Place will focus on social and emotional learning, integrate creative arts into students’ daily schedules, and use a project-based learning curriculum. The school has not determined a location, but suggests that it will primarily draw students from the North and West regions of the city in the 78201, 78213, 78228, 78229, and 78230 ZIP codes.

San Antonio Preparatory, or SA Prep, will have an extended school day that includes 150 minutes of literacy instruction and more than 100 minutes of math curriculum.  Students will also complete year-end capstone projects. SA Prep founder Stephanie Hall Powell told SBOE members that, while the school’s application proposes a campus in Judson ISD, it may not be possible due to facility availability.

On Thursday, a group of about 10 educators from Judson Independent School District traveled to Austin from San Antonio to ask the board not to approve SA Prep’s charter.

Cecilia Davis, Judson’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, told board members that the addition of a new charter school to Judson’s boundaries would take students and funding from her district.

“We serve all of our diverse population at Judson ISD and it takes resources to do so,” Davis said. “Resources that would be taken away from our district through the addition of [SA Prep].”

Board members engaged in a broader discussion Friday about the implications of adding a total of five proposed charter schools to Texas when charter seats are still expanding from existing charter holders like IDEA Public Schools and KIPP.

SBOE Member Ruben Cortez (D-Brownsville) mentioned a recent decision by the Commissioner of Education to approve adding 27,000 charter seats statewide through expansion amendments.

“I’m having a hard time understanding what the need is,” Cortez said. “I would strongly encourage the board to take a pause … I don’t think this is a time for us to be adding any new charters to our roster.”

Democrat Marisa Perez-Diaz, who represents the San Antonio area, said the long-term impact of charter schools required a separate conversation from the one the board was having about the specific proposals.

Eventually, the board voted 12-2 to approve The Gathering Place’s charter.

The board also approved SA Prep by a 9-4 margin, after an unsuccessful vote to veto the charter.

Both charters will now embark on a planning and recruitment year with plans to open in 2020-21. Last year, Promesa Academy was the only San Antonio charter applicant to be approved by SBOE. It was slated to open in 2019-20, but pushed back its opening until 2020-21.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.