If you are looking for a classical, liberal arts education with a grounding in United States history, character education, and fine arts, then it’s worth visiting a charter school on the northeastern outskirts of San Antonio. In 2019, we toured Founders Classical Academy of Schertz, and we want to offer some essential facts about the school as well as impressions and stories that illustrate the school culture.
Founders Classical Academy of Schertz is part of the Founders Classical Academies network, which is affiliated with the Barney Charter School Initiative at Hillsdale College. The Founders Classical Academy network is under the umbrella of ReponsiveEd, a charter management organization that operates many types of charter schools to meet the needs of families across Texas.
On November 2, 2020, Founders Classical Academy of Schertz began accepting applications for enrollment for the 2021–22 school year; open enrollment continues through January 15, 2021.
If you’re reading this post, it’s likely that you are in the process of doing a school search. We suggest you visit our guide to charter schools and download the San Antonio Charter Schools app and join the San Antonio Charter Moms discussion group on Facebook. One of our evergreen posts about advocacy is based on a talk that our Founder and Executive Director, Inga Cotton, gave at a meeting of parents at Founders Classical Academy of Schertz in 2018.
Facts About Founders Classical Academy of Schertz
Founders Classical Academy of Schertz serves grades K–11 at an evolving campus located northeast of San Antonio at 8453 E FM 1518 North, Schertz, TX 78154 (map). Some buildings date back to a now-closed charter school at the site, but they were extensively remodeled before Founders Classical Academy of Schertz opened in 2016, and new buildings in a similar modern style have since been added.
The campus has substantial open space, some of which is in the flood plain for a nearby creek, but is used for extracurriculars and outdoor learning. When the campus opened as Founders in 2016, it served grades K–7. The school has been adding another grade level every year, and in 2021–22 it will have its first group of seniors. In December 2019, Headmaster Oscar Ortiz gave us a tour of the school, and we spoke with him recently over Zoom to get updates, especially about the expanding high school classes.
The Founders Classical Academy model started in 2012 with a campus in Lewisville, Texas, and now has schools across Texas and Arkansas. The ResponsiveEd charter management organization, which was founded in 1998, also operates dropout recovery and prevention schools, including two in San Antonio: Premier High School San Antonio West and Premier High School San Antonio East. ResponsiveEd also operates a unique charter school, the Foundation School of Autism, that provides early intervention special education services for children with autism in grades PK3–1.
All Founders Classical Academy campuses are open enrollment public charter schools, which means they don’t charge tuition, there are no selective admission requirements (unlike magnet schools), and they are open to all students—including special education, 504 plans, and English language learners. The enrollment area for Founders Classical Academy of Schertz—and all ResponsiveEd schools—covers the entire state of Texas.
Here are some key dates for enrolling your student at Founders Classical Academy of Schertz. The best time to apply online is during open enrollment, from November 2, 2020 to January 15, 2021. All applications received during open enrollment have an equal chance of receiving an offer through the random lottery. The lottery date is still to be announced. Applications received after open enrollment will go on the waiting list.
Founders Classical Academy of Schertz School Report Card
The most recent official school report card, from 2019, shows that Founders Classical Academy of Schertz is showing improvement. Last year, the school was rated Improvement Required (59), but changes in strategy and leadership have sparked a remarkable turnaround. Here are the school’s latest ratings:
- Overall Performance: B (81)
- Student Achievement: B (75)
- School Progress: B (82)
- Closing the Gaps: C (78)
Founders Classical Academy of Schertz Curriculum and Teachers
The Founders Classical Academies model uses a classical approach to educate students in the liberal arts and sciences. The network has a set of commitments on matters such as offering a knowledge-rich curriculum, leading students to read classic works of history and literature, and appreciating math and science for their beauty—not just their utility.
The curriculum is built around stories of heroes who go through trials. As students learn about historical figures and literary characters who faced those trials with courage, they are inspired to adopt those values in their own lives.
The school crest, unique to Founders Schertz, is rich with symbolism, from the trillium flower, the number of stars, and the motto “virtus tentamine gaudet”—strength rejoices in the challenge.
Ortiz emphasized that Founders is not a Christian school, nor a military school (despite the homage to ancient Sparta), but does emphasize teaching the liberal arts and great works of Western civilization.
The curriculum also prioritizes teaching civics and American history. All students in grades K–5 study American history for at least part of the year. “Founders” in the name of the school refers to the group of leaders who formed the United States on a set of principles about democracy and freedom.
The students move quietly through the hallways, walking in line. In class, the elementary students sit in rows and focus on the teacher’s instruction. We observed a third grade math lesson, based on Math in Focus, a version of Singapore Math adapted for the United States. Students worked on word problems about grouping, moving from concrete pictures to more abstract notation. The teacher used a document camera to display her work.
English language arts lessons include a heavy dose of phonics. Students learn cursive handwriting in second grade. For one teacher to manage a class of that size requires skillful classroom management, but the educators we saw were able to hold the students’ attention through energetic presentations and no wasted time.
On our tour, we also visited a science lesson. Students were being asked to classify animals based on their characteristics. The lesson made students stretch their minds by suggesting features like scales, feathers, etc. The teacher waited until the students provided the answers—not stepping in to rescue them, but showing respect for their abilities by letting them be the heroes and meet the challenge.
In every classroom, a set of nine frames displays images representing the virtues that are woven into the curriculum. The graphics might come from classic storybooks, portraits of historical figures, or great works of art, depending on the teacher’s discretion. Each section has a lead teacher and each grade level has an aide who assists the lead teachers.
Students in grades K–5 have recess twice a day; older students still have one recess period daily. In many grades, the students have PE every day.
School Culture at Founders Classical Academy of Schertz
On the school calendar, the first day of school for the 2020–21 school year was August 18, 2020; the last day of school will be May 26, 2021. A notable feature on the calendar—each month features a virtue for students to focus on; for December, that virtue is gratefulness. The earliest time for dropoff is 7:15 AM; the school day starts at 8:00 AM. The end of the school day is 3:30 PM, and students should be off campus by 4:00 PM. There are local businesses, including gymnastics and martial arts studios, that offer pick up and child care services. The school does not offer transportation services.
Founders Classical Academy of Schertz offers a variety of extracurricular activities, including athletics and clubs. In sports, the flag football, girls volleyball, softball, and girls basketball teams have been especially successful. The mascot is the Hoplite, a citizen-soldier of Ancient Greek city-states, armed with spear and shield—the hoplon. To express school spirit, students will chant, “shields up,” representing soldiers standing together in a phalanx. The school colors are navy blue and yellow. The very active parent organization is known as the Hoplite Council.
In 2019, we learned about the culinary skills clinic. The students were learning professional level cooking skills and preparing fine meals in the school’s commercial kitchen.
Outdoors, in the open space between the school and the creek, the animal husbandry club tends a flock of chickens in a coop. The early morning “sunrise crew” harvests one or two eggs every day. Also in the wide green space, horticulture students are planting gardens to attract pollinating insects. There is also an archery range.
Upper School students are organized in a house system based on Ancient Greek city states. Younger siblings know that they will be assigned to the same house, which keeps families together. They also participate in student government, using it as an opportunity to apply what they have learned about American government and federalism.
As the school prepares to have its first class of graduating seniors in 2021–22, the college counseling program has been expanding. Beginning in ninth grade, students get access to resources and regular updates about what they need to do to be on track for going to college after graduation. Students can meet (this year, virtually) with representatives from colleges, as well as research internship opportunities to gain experience. Mr. Ortiz is already making plans for the first Hoplite graduation ceremony in 2022.
Founders Classical Academy of Schertz is blooming into a successful campus with strong academics and a close-knit school community. Families who are seeing classical education and appreciate the emphasis on civics and American history will also appreciate the offerings in fine arts, sports, and extracurriculars. We are eager to watch the Hoplites continue to build their exemplary city-state of a school on the northeastern edge of San Antonio.
Charter Moms Chats
Oscar Ortiz is the Headmaster at Founders Classical Academy of Schertz. He has experience teaching in a classical education model at schools in San Antonio, North Texas, and Phoenix. His undergraduate degree is from the University of Dallas, and he has a masters in liberal arts from St. John’s College.
Read More About Founders Classical Academy of Schertz
- “Thousands Of San Antonio Students Return To The Classroom For The First Time Since March,” Camille Phillips, Texas Public Radio, September 7, 2020
- “U.S. Secretary of Education Visits Classical Charter School,” Emily Stack Davis, Hillsdale College, February 4, 2020
- “Betsy Devos makes stop in Schertz, Texas as part of her nationwide tour,” News 4 San Antonio, February 3, 2020
- “Salutes to veterans in San Antonio to include parade, Fort Sam ceremony,” Sig Christiansen, San Antonio Express-News, November 7, 2019
- “Local sixth-grader selected to train at FC Barcelona facilities,” Jessica Hunt, KSAT 12, September 23, 2019
- “What’s Up South Texas! 2nd grade author inspires others to keep reading alive,” Japhanie Gray, KSAT 12, May 5, 2019
- “Charters 101: Being a Charter School Parent Advocate—Founders Schertz Edition,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, March 5, 2018
- “Founders Classical Academy Schertz parent interest meetings on November 17 and 19,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, November 17, 2015
- “Back to Basics,” John J. Miller, National Review, October 19, 2015