An Introduction to The Circle School
Founded in 1965, The Circle School is a family-centered learning environment for children. The school is committed to the development of the whole child through the enrichment of body, mind, heart and spirit. The Circle School's innovative curriculum and vibrant culture give children and their families an experience like no other in San Antonio. Located just steps away from the Witte Museum, Brackenridge Park, the Botanical Gardens, and the new Doseum, The Circle School sits tucked away in a 95- year-old house in the Mahncke Park neighborhood.
We offer an innovative curriculum to grades PK3 - 8th grade in a cooperative environment. The cooperative environment and flexible approach to education makes The Circle School more than just a school. The Circle School is a place for your child to learn, to grow, to be themselves, and to become engaged and inspired citizens of the world.
The Circle School is more than your child's school - it is your family's school. It is a community that values education and working together to accomplish amazing feats. In 2015, we celebrated our 50th year in existence, and today, the community is more vibrant and active than ever!
After exploring our website, please schedule a visit. It is our belief that you cannot truly know the school without experiencing morning story, appreciating our art-filled walls, and seeing our passionate educators in action.
Please contact us to schedule a tour and find out why the families of The Circle School are so passionate.
A New Approach to Education
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. 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.
Isabeth was inspired by the richness of children's imaginations and the unique quality of reality experienced by children in different developmental stages. She was equally struck by the lack of learning experiences available for young children in many daily settings. 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.
The purpose of this community was not to be another day care for young children, but rather to embody the conscious task of child-rearing and acculturation for children in a rapidly changing world. Through a significant cultural/social environment that includes the child's family, the staff of the school, the other students, the larger community and the world of human experience, the school would provide a synthesis of relevant curricula for the child.
A School with Giant Oaks in the Yard
Isabeth and Belle opened the school in a large house in a residential neighborhood near downtown, within walking distance to the city park, zoo, and the natural history museum. They had the interior walls of the school painted bright, clear colors and hung works of art created by friends --both adults and children -- throughout the house. The school is set in a yard shielded by giant live oak trees, providing shade, beauty, climbing structures, vistas and living lessons. Isabeth and Belle welcomed children ages 2 ½ to 9. In the ensuing 25 years, the school has changed in size but not in feeling. 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.
The school's population at that time included 85 children and 15 staff. In the early 1980s, the school returned to its preschool focus, starting a new generation of New Age School students. The school rebuilt its community around these children, adding kindergarten, first grade and so on in its current configuration. In 1986, Isabeth retired, and Judith Wade became director after having worked closely for two years with Isabeth as assistant director. The school began increasing its marketing and institutional development efforts. In 1990, the school changed its name from The New Age School to The Circle School at the occasion of its 25th Anniversary. The school had a population of 70 children and 14 staff, with children in six groups from age 3 years through grade five. The groups included two preschool, a kindergarten and three elementary groups with mixed ages and grade levels. 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 Circle School open. This group was able to reopen The Circle School the following fall with 10 students, one teacher (Felipe Barajas), a part-time director and a barter parent as art teacher. Today, The Circle School is a thriving community centered around its school with more than 80 students, 8 full-time teachers, art, music, PE, and gardening offerings, and an active Co-op that manages many administrative and maintenance tasks. The Circle School also features a 10-week Summer School Arts Program, Art Days during Winter and Spring breaks, as well as Afterschool Enrichment Programs during the Fall and Spring semesters.