Cleto Rodriguez Elementary School.
San Antonio ISD plans to reopen Rodriguez Elementary School next fall under a new academic model. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

A year after San Antonio Independent School District closed Rodriguez Elementary because of continued poor academic performance, the campus will reopen its doors under a new academic model.

Rodriguez will reboot next fall as a Montessori-style elementary school with a dual language component. It will be the second SAISD school to use Montessori programming, after Steele Montessori Academy opened in fall 2017.

District officials announced the plan at a community meeting Tuesday night.

“We did three big community meetings and a lot of other things in between the meetings [to solicit feedback],” SAISD Chief Innovation Officer Mohammed Choudhury told the Rivard Report on Wednesday. “The community told us [they] want kids to move around and experience organized chaos. … They want kids to speak two languages. … They want a school where the teachers take a different approach to behavior. All of those things led to Montessori with a dual language pathway.”

In between community meetings, parents toured other SAISD campuses to learn more about different school models that could be used for Rodriguez. The district also received survey responses from almost 100 people and met with families in their homes, Choudhury said.

San Antonio ISD hopes to hire a principal by January to design the school and plan for next fall. From February to July, the principal will recruit students and prepare for Rodriguez’s reopening.

Many details are still undetermined, but Choudhury said he expects the campus to serve roughly 425 to 450 students at full capacity. Next fall, Rodriguez likely will open to students ages 3, 4, and 5, and then expand enrollment to older children in subsequent years.

Families living near the campus will be given priority, but enrollment likely will open to the whole district and students throughout Bexar County, Choudhury said.

SAISD will use a $1 million Texas Education Agency grant to redesign the campus.

The Westside elementary closed at the end of the 2018-19 school year under a Texas law that requires schools with multiple years of failing scores under the State accountability system to shut down.

Rodriguez enrolled approximately 300 students when it closed and hadn’t met state standards since 2013. Many Rodriguez students transferred to Carvajal Elementary, located 1 mile south, when the West Side campus closed its doors.

“Part of our worry is what happens to the fabric of that community, as that has been their school for decades,” SAISD Board President Patti Radle said at the time. “To force them into a situation where they have got to travel to a different building and to not be allowed to do something there for those families is very interruptive to the pattern of their life.”

SAISD leaders will closely monitor Rodriguez’s progress to prevent the campus from facing forced closure again, Choudhury said.

“There should never be any [forced closure] campuses ever again in San Antonio ISD,” he added.

Only one district school is at risk of closure should scores not improve this year. Ogden Academy received its sixth consecutive failing grade last year. If it receives another, the State can either force the campus’ closure or choose to install a state-appointed board to govern the school district.

Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.