Isabeth was a young San Antonio teacher, American Studies graduate, and writer. To establish the new school, she joined Belle Graubard, an experienced teacher from New York who had retired from the U.S. Army and was actively involved in educational and child-development issues. They started the school with three students. Funding support was provided by Isabeth's parents, Wilbur Eugene Bakke, Marion White Bakke and the Bakke family.
The school's founding was inspired by the richness of children's imaginations and the unique quality of reality experienced by children in different developmental stages. Isabeth was equally struck by the lack of learning experiences available for young children in many daily settings.
In November 1965, Isabeth Bakke Hardy realized a dream of peace and culture in founding The New Age School, a small, private, nonprofit, all-day alternative school for young children.
“The school will always be a dream – a continually cultivated curriculum.” -Isabeth Bakke Hardy, Circle school founder
With the domination of television and pop media, she saw that the essential formative imagination of childhood was in danger of being trivialized and stunted. Isabeth resolved to create a setting for children that would provide a focus on the developmental and psychological issues of childhood. This educational community would provide an experience for the whole child, enriched by the cultural legacies of the human experience.
In the early 1970s, the school expanded to include a mobile classroom that included children, ages 10 to 12, who moved in concentrated exploration throughout the city, asking questions and studying the environment in which they lived before returning to their classroom in the afternoon to synthesize the day's observations. This was a very successful experiment in experiential education for older children and was highly acclaimed.
In 1990, the school changed its name from The New Age School to The Circle School at the occasion of its 25th Anniversary.
In May 1992, financial problems prompted The Circle School to close its doors. Almost immediately, a small group of parents began meeting to form what would become The Circle School Family Co-op to keep the school open. This group was able to reopen The Circle School the following fall with 10 students, one teacher, a part-time director and a barter parent as art teacher. The school has continued to grow since that time and in November of 2022 celebrated 57 years of teaching peace in the old schoolhouse on Pershing Ave.