By Inga Cotton, Founder & Executive Director
San Antonio Charter Mom
The learning landscape for today’s young students looks significantly different than it did for their parents growing up. Today, families have choices well beyond the local public school. In fact, there are over 150 schools of choice in the San Antonio area alone. These schools range widely in their academic focus to include STEM, classical, liberal arts, child-led, dual language, cybersecurity, public health, outdoor learning, college prep, and much more. With so many school models to choose from, living in the best school district is no longer the end-all-be-all for assuring your child gets a great education.
Every child is unique, and all children learn differently. Each school model offers distinctive attributes, allowing learners of all types to reach their full potential. It’s important to know your options, and broadening the search to include more variety allows families to find the best education for their child’s individual learning needs. Let’s break down the most common school models available to choose from.
- Charter Schools, in simple terms, are similar to public schools but with more flexibility. Nonprofits run “open-enrollment charter schools,” while traditional public school districts run “in-district charter schools.” Compared to conventional neighborhood public schools, open-enrollment charter schools serve students from a wider geographic area but typically serve fewer students per grade. Charter schools are known for having visionary leadership and providing a unique learning style, such as project-based learning or classical education. In-district charter schools benefit from resources such as transportation, athletics, and other ties to traditional public school districts. Charter schools are free but require an application; students are chosen by a lottery system and are waitlisted once seats are full.
- Magnet Schools are designed for career readiness with specific focus areas such as the arts, construction, agriculture, technology, medicine, or communications. Magnets are typically found at the high school level, with a select few at the middle school level. Magnets are managed by traditional public school districts and may have entrance requirements such as entrance exams, recommendation letters, or auditions, for example.
- Neighborhood Public Schools allow neighbors to stay together. By design, they accommodate all types of learners, including special needs. Public school benefits include in-district resources such as transportation, established sports, and extracurricular programs.
- Online Schools offer full-time online instruction to students in their own homes. Online schools may be public or private. They provide an alternative for families with flexibility needs.
- Homeschooling is the process of parents or caregivers educating children in their homes. Homeschooling provides the ultimate flexibility for families. Joining together to form co-ops and sports leagues gives homeschool families greater opportunities for collaboration. Homeschool students do not have to take standardized tests. Families can select their own curriculum and may choose to include religious instruction.
- Private Schools are the only schools allowed to offer faith-based education. Additionally, Private schools do not have to administer the STAAR or other state-mandated standardized testing, although the schools may use benchmark testing to make sure that their students are making strong progress. Because private schools can draw on multiple funding sources, including tuition from current students, gifts from alumni, and grants, they can offer some of the highest quality learning environments in the region and are often held to a higher standard of customer service.
With so many education options to choose from, parents and caregivers can quickly become overwhelmed. That is where the nonprofit San Antonio Charter Moms goes to work. Considered the leading authority for assisting local families in their school search, the nonprofit is designed to help parents and caregivers make informed decisions by providing easy access to extensive school resources such as Facebook discussion groups with over 10K members, online articles, live videos, enrollment guides, podcasts, a school finder app and perhaps the most anticipated and impactful of all, their in-person School Discovery Day Series held annually during enrollment season which is currently underway for the 2023-2024 school year. The series is the largest of its kind in San Antonio, a school fair event series focusing on charter and choice schools in the area. The events are free and open to the public and a huge asset to families trying to make sense of the myriad of great school options in San Antonio.
There are four remaining events in the current School Discovery Day series, with the next taking place at the Doseum on Saturday, Jan. 21, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. In celebration of National School Choice week, this is the largest event in the series. Families will have the opportunity to meet school representatives from nearly 30 top San Antonio choice schools, ask questions, get on interest lists and learn about application processes and deadlines. School Discovery Days connect families with schools in an efficient, face-to-face format that enables them to interact directly with multiple school representatives in one convenient location. Additionally, families can receive hands-on guidance from the San Antonio Charter Moms team on navigating the nonprofit’s online tools and resources designed to simplify the search and application process. To learn about additional events, see the list of participating schools, and map out the fun activities planned for the day, visit https://sachartermoms.com/school-discovery-day/.