Jubilee–Lake View University Prep is the newest campus in the Jubilee Academies network of public charter schools. I recently toured the campus to learn about the school’s facilities, curriculum, and school culture—what they call “The Jubilee Way.” By sharing my observations, I hope you will get a sense of how this emerging school community is forming well-rounded student leaders.
The campus is located just west of downtown San Antonio at 325 Castroville Rd., San Antonio, TX 78207 (map). A nearby landmark is Our Lady of the Lake University; the steeple of its historic Sacred Heart Conventual Chapel is visible from the playing fields at Jubilee–Lake View and inspired the school’s name. Just down the street is the Las Palmas Branch Library, which my kids and I visited recently.
In 2014, I toured the elementary school at Jubilee Academy and wrote a blog post about it. Jubilee Academies was founded in 2000 and has expanded across South Texas, including Austin, Kingsville, and the Rio Grande Valley (Harlingen and Brownsville), now serving around 6,000 students. Jubilee Academies has relocated and reopened several of its campuses under the Athlos model, which emphasizes athletics and character along with academics. Jubilee–Lake View, however, is not an Athlos campus.
Jubilee–Lake View is a new public charter school, so there is no accountability data available for that campus yet. However, to get a sense of how Jubilee–Lake View is likely to perform, one can look at data from other Jubilee Academies campuses. The 2017 accountability ratings show that Jubilee Academies, as a district, earned a rating of met standard. Two campuses in San Antonio, Athlos Leadership Academy–Premier (report) and Highland Park Gifted and Talented Academy (report), also met standard. However, one campus, Athlos Leadership Academy (report), earned a rating of improvement required. (For more information about accountability ratings, see the Texas Education Agency’s Department of Performance Reporting.)
Until recently, the Jubilee–Lake View campus was home to a private school, Christian Academy of San Antonio (CASA), that closed in May 2017 because it was no longer financially sustainable. Jubiliee Academies acquired the campus in May 2017 and made plans to open as a charter school by August, hiring leadership and teachers and inviting students to apply. Jubilee–Lake View kept the same school colors—maroon and blue—and mascot, the Rams, and retained many students from CASA, who no longer need to pay tuition at a free charter school. By October, enrollment stood at 488 students in grades pre-K 4 to 12. At full capacity, the school will serve about 1,000 students.
As of this writing, Jubilee–Lake View is still hiring and enrolling: apply online, call 210-801-8148, or email email@example.com. The school will arrange for interested families to take a campus tour, much like I did.
On my visit, I met with Principal Diana Wagner and Superintendent Daniel Amador. We talked about the school’s mission and its place in the community. Wagner said, “We believe all children can learn. Parents are bringing us their best—their children—and we are going to give them our best.”
The campus has amenities that are more typical of a private school rather than a charter school campus. Also, as a brand new school community, there is a sense of the school culture emerging from the collective dreams of its students. A school tour is a good way to see if Jubilee–Lake View is the right fit for your family, but here are some highlights that may help shape your decision.
Jubilee–Lake View is drawing on its strengths, including parent volunteers, online learning, and versatile facilities, to offer a well-rounded education to its students.
Although it is a brand new school, Jubilee–Lake View already serves a full range of grades, pre-K 4 through 12th. The elementary school building serves grades pre-K 4 through 5th. Across a courtyard, the middle school/high school building serves grades 6-12. The school offers free breakfast and lunch to all students. If they stay after school for free tutoring, then they receive a free snack, too.
In the elementary school building, the hallways are like the rungs of a ladder, and in each hallway the classrooms are grouped by grade level, with the pre-K 4 classrooms are closest to the administration offices. The pre-K 4 classes are a full-day program, and each class has a teacher and an aide.
I observed an upper elementary classroom of about 25 students, and the students were sitting at their desks, working individually, and staying on task.
The classrooms and hallways are decorated with student artwork. Wagner explained that the students feel pride in seeing their work on the walls rather than mass-produced posters. The student work often features principles from The Leader in Me, a leadership program that applies Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to a school setting. Those themes of character and leadership are woven into the school culture.
As a public school, Jubilee–Lake View offers special education services. Each building—elementary and middle school/high school—has a special education teacher and paraprofessional. The school also has staff who serve as reading and math interventionists, ESL teachers, and GT teachers. The special education team finds ways to accommodate the students in class or during pullout time. The class schedule includes a built-in enrichment period, and so depending on the student, they can get reading or math intervention, GT, or time to catch up on work if they have a health-related 504 plan that cuts into their instructional time.
As enrollment has grown, the school has hired more teachers and opened more sections of each grade. I observed a lively PE class in the elementary school gym that included three sections of students in the same grade playing together. The PE curriculum emphasizes athletic conditioning, but is not the full Athlos curriculum that is featured at some Jubilee Academies campuses. An interesting feature—the elementary gym will get indoor turf installed on part of the floor. Improvements are planned for the elementary school’s outdoor playground.
The elementary library is well stocked, especially considering the campus is so new. During my visit, stacks of new books were stacked on tables waiting to be shelved by volunteers. To strengthen early readers, the school uses a guided reading program from ESC Region 20.
For technology, the school uses Chromebook carts. When I visited, all of the carts were in use, but the teachers were so kind to bring me one for a closer look. Chromebooks have quickly gained popularity in schools, but may be unfamiliar to some families, so I will explain in more detail. A Chromebook cart is a mobile charging station that reminds me of the old AV carts that schools used when I was a student. When you open the doors, you see a classroom set of laptop computers standing on end in charging docks. Each Chromebook is a simple, fast-starting laptop loaded with educational software such as iStation and Schmoop foreign languages. The carts can be wheeled to any classroom and you have an instant computer lab. In fact, the private school had three computer labs, but their desktop computers were obsolete, so they were in the process of being disassembled for recycling.
In high school, students will have the option to take dual-credit courses through San Antonio College. The dual-credit program will start in early 2018 for 11th and 12th grade students. They will likely start with foreign language or elective courses; later, they will plan for two-semester courses with prerequisites. The program will expand to all 9th–12th grade students, depending on their level of academic and emotional preparation.
Offering dual-credit courses is a way to prepare students for college and to reduce the cost, once they get to college, of completing a college degree. Jubilee Academies students at other campuses have earned as many as 57 hours of college credit while still in high school. The school does not offer AP courses because the dual credit courses fill that need.
Fine arts classes are offered in grades 6–12. I observed a high school art class taught by Mr. Walk, a former first grade teacher at Jubilee. He was having an ongoing conversation with the students, moving from desk to desk, talking about what they were working on.
The middle school/high school building has its own cafeteria, library, and gym—including weight rooms. There is even a home economics classroom with kitchens, which may host a cooking club in the future.
Jubilee–Lake View has a small-campus feeling, where students, teachers, leaders, and parent-volunteers all seem to know each other. As Superintendent Amador said, “We are a family.” As a new school, the students are coming together to build a school culture and establish new traditions.
All students are required to wear uniforms. The basic uniform is a maroon or blue polo shirt with khaki shorts or pants and athletic shoes. The guidelines have some leeway because the school wants to make it easy for families to find school uniforms on a budget. On Magnificent Mondays, students and teachers are encouraged to wear college T-shirts. For a $1 donation, students can wear relaxed dress on Fridays.
During my visit, I observed an elementary school classroom transition. The students moved quietly and purposefully down the hallway. Some students swung their arms and wiggled, but they stayed in a straight line. Wagner explained that the teacher was actually a substitute, but the students seemed trusting and at ease with her.
As I mentioned earlier, the campus is divided into two buildings, one for the elementary school (pre-K to 5) and one for middle school/high school (grades 6–12), and each building has its own cafeteria, library, and gym. The younger students get to see older students on special occasions as role models, but they do not mix during everyday activities. The school is safety-conscious and has security officers on campus during drop off and pick up and overnight.
On special occasions, all of the grades come together in a beautiful shared space—the auditorium. Already, the whole school has met for The Leader in Me rallies and for assemblies to recognize students who have made special achievements. In the future, the fifth grade will have a transition ceremony to celebrate going to middle school.
At the middle school/high school, the students are organizing to build a student culture. They did a survey to decide which clubs to offer. Wagner shared a story about a 9th grade student who wrote a proposal for a chess club, collected signatures of interested students, and found a sponsor; the parents are donating the chess boards. A green club has formed to take care of plants and beautify the campus. Other clubs are forming around interests in music and crochet.
The high school student are close-knit, as you can imagine with a senior class of only seven students. They are planning a junior-senior prom. As part of The Leader in Me, they have organized a Junior Lighthouse Team. The students have taken ownership of announcing activities and sharing the SAT word of the day.
For sports at the middle school/high school, the school is making an effort to respond to what the students want. In the fall, the school is offering volleyball, basketball, and flag football through T-CAL. The school inherited CASA’s equipment for tackle football and plans to offer that in the future. The students have asked for cross country and track teams, as well as pep and cheer, and Wagner says the school will find a way to offer those soon.
A recurring theme is the high level of parent support in many forms, including donations of supplies and time. Wagner shared how a parent noticed that the elementary school has a music room, and offered to teach music classes every Wednesday. The school reciprocates by welcoming parents. Every month, on the first Friday, Wagner hosts a morning coffee meeting so parents can visit and ask questions. The purpose of offering good customer service for parents is the serve the greater goal of helping children.
These are my observations of the academics and the school culture at Jubilee–Lake View University Prep. This feels like a special moment in the formation of the school, as the students express their preferences and organize around the skills available in the school community. As I mentioned earlier, the school is still enrolling for all grades. Prospective families can apply online, call 210-801-8148, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and the school leaders are eager to take families on tours. For a close and supportive school community that emphasizes forming students into well-rounded leaders, Jubilee Academies is worth a look.
- “Christian Academy of San Antonio closing”, Zach Hedrick, News 4 San Antonio, May 25, 2017
- “Jubilee Academic Center Teaches Leadership Skills in a Family Environment,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, February 11, 2014