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. We recently toured Founders Classical Academy of Schertz and 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 Academy 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.
On December 2, 2019, Founders Classical Academy of Schertz began accepting applications for enrollment for the 2020–2021 school year; open enrollment continues through January 17, 2020.
If you’re reading this post, it’s likely that you are in the process of doing a school search. We recommend that you read this post about finding the right schools. We also suggest you download the San Antonio Charter Schools app and join the San Antonio Charter Moms discussion group on Facebook. One of our favorite 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 last year.
Facts About Founders Classical Academy of Schertz
Founders Classical Academy of Schertz serves grades K–10 at an evolving campus located northeast of San Antonio at 8453 E FM 1518 North, Schertz, TX 78154 (map). Some buildings date back to an earlier, failed charter school at the site. Those 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 still used for outdoor learning. When the campus opened as Founders in 2016, it served grades K–7. The school will add another grade level every year until it offers grades K–12. The school website is founders-schertz.responsiveed.com; you can reach the front desk by phone at 210-510-2618. Headmaster Oscar Ortiz and Dean of Students Courtney Upton gave us a tour of the school.
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 charter school that is unique to San Antonio: the Foundation School for Autism, which serves 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 December 2, 2019 to January 17, 2020. All applications received during open enrollment have an equal chance of receiving an offer through the random lottery, which will be held during the first week of February. Applications received after open enrollment will go on the waiting list.
Last year, Founders Classical Academy of Schertz had about 550 students across ten grade levels; this year, it’s about 640 students across 11 grade levels. The campus is growing as the schools adds another grade level each year; also, the school added sections in grades K–2. The school currently has four sections in grades K–2, three sections in third grade, and two sections in grades 4–10. The sections typically have 25–27 students each. Every year, most of the seats in kindergarten will be open to new students, except for a few taken by younger siblings of current students. The school shares its waiting list status online.
Founders Classical Academy of Schertz School Report Card
The latest official school report card 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 current 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 Academy 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.
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 2019–20 was August 20; the last day of school will be May 28. 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. In 2019, the school began offering Lyceum, a paid after-school care program. 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.
Among the many clubs offered at Founders, the culinary skills clinic is especially notable. The students are learning professional level cooking skills and preparing fine meals—in the same kitchen where school lunches are reheated.
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.
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.
- “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