IDEA Public School campus opening in La Joya

After years of rumors and false starts, the city of La Joya officially commemorated IDEA Public Schools opening a campus in the city.

On Wednesday, the charter school system hosted a groundbreaking for a location in La Joya, their newest campus and the second one in western Hidalgo County.

Officials with the city of La Joya, IDEA Public Schools and more at the groundbreaking ceremony for an IDEA campus in La Joya Wednesday, November 18, 2020. Progress Times photo by Jose De Leon III.

“For years we’ve heard that IDEA is coming but we never thought they’d make it out here,” La Joya Mayor Isidro Casanova said. “And now here it is, we’re very excited for them to be part of the educational system of our city.”

The campus is expected to open in August 2021 and will serve kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders and 6th grade students in its inaugural year, IDEA Regional superintendent Jill Dominguez said. 

The school will add two new grade levels each year until it is a fully scaled K – 12th grade campus in 2028 with an enrolment of 1,500 students.

“We have a dream of serving kids across the whole Valley and with the addition of this school, there is now a school every 15 minutes from a family from Brownsville to Rio Grande City,” Dominguez said. “It’s a very exciting day for us.”

IDEA has 120 campuses spread throughout Texas and Louisiana. Parents can apply for IDEA La Joya and all IDEA Rio Grande Valley schools at www.ideapublicschools.org/apply to take part in a random lottery will be held next February to determine which students will fill spots available at each IDEA school.    

IDEA Public Schools, which was created in 2000, has celebrated 14 years of having 100% students of their graduating class be accepted into college.

“Our mission is college for all and our promise to the community is we will prepare everyone who enters these doors to attend college and by 2027, we will have that first graduating class in this campus,” Dominguez said.

Casanova said the community first had mixed feelings on the school system coming to the city and taking students away from the local school district. However, he is now welcoming the campus to the city and cited several opportunities for the local economy to strengthen because of it. 

“This will bring jobs to at least 100 people and a shopping center being built next to it means that this will be beneficial to the surrounding area, “Casanova said. “It’s all about the children, I’m a firm believer that they need an option and a choice in where they go to school and if they choose to go to IDEA, so be it.”

The La Joya campus will have two founding principals – Belinda Gonzales and Eduardo Varela Facio – who will respectively serve as the principal for K-5th grade students and 6th-12th grade students.

For Gonzales, being principal is a way to give back to the community that made her the educator she is today.

“I started as a 5th grade teacher for the La Joya school district and I’m so full of joy and gratitude for this opportunity,” Gonzales said. “We’ll be able to impact more teachers and students in a possible way.”

Facio will be in charge of ensuring the older students will be ready for college when they graduate from school.

“We want to close the achievement gap we see in the Valley where we have many students who are not reaching the goal of going to college,” Facio said. “And that’s our main goal, make a promise to the community that we will send your kids to college.”

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