The Joy School

In 1997, a team of educators, clinicians and parents founded The Joy School in Houston to meet the needs of students with learning differences.  Its founders include Pete Melcher and Patti Melcher, parents of a special-needs child.  It educates approximately 150 children from kindergarten through the eighth grade and serves families from 34-40 zip codes throughout the Greater Houston area.

Fast Facts

School TypeSpecial Needs, CoedGrades ServedK-8
Religious AffiliationN/AEnrollment150
UniformsYes   Grade 812
Date Founded1997   Grade 722
Endowment$815K   Grade 617
Student / Teacher Ratio4.1   Grade 522
Minority Enrollment10%   Grade 424
Head of SchoolShara Bumgarner   Grade 322
Admissions DirectorLaura Rodriguez   Grade 215   Grade 112
Academic TracksOn-Track with Accommodations for Learning DifferencesSports ProgramsN/A
AP or IB CoursesN/A
First Bell8:00 am
Last Bell3:00 pm
Prime Entry PointsAllTuition PreK-8$38,400
Financial Aid Students15-20%

The Joy School in Detail

The Joy School (TJS) was founded in 1997 by a team of educators, clinicians, and parents with the goal of meeting the needs of students with learning differences. The founders include parents of a special needs child, an optometrist who spent 40 years researching children with learning differences, and a public school teacher who is now the Head of School. They founded the school because they felt there was an underserved need in Houston. Their mission is to “prepare students with learning differences to return to traditional classroom settings.” Over the past 15 years, 350 students have attended TJS and either stayed through 8th grade and graduated or returned to traditional schools after a few years of attendance. In response to school growth, TJS is building a new campus.

The Joy School has no religious affiliation.

The Joy School’s 1.5 acre campus is located in Houston’s Museum District at Highway 59 and Montrose Blvd. Homes, shops and restaurants surround the school. The current building holds 108 students and has facilities for activities such as fencing, golf, and Tae Kwon Do. TJS has begun construction of a new campus. Phase I is a new two-story building that will hold 180 students in 30 classrooms with 5 learning resource rooms, a conference room, and offices. Phase II is a two-story building that holds a cafeteria/ auditorium space and girls’ and boys’ locker rooms, and it includes outdoor playing fields and a parking lot. As of August 2015, Phase I has been completed and Phase II is ongoing, and the new campus is not yet in use.

The admissions process at TJS requires a completed online application;

  1. A $350 Application Fee
  2. A teacher’s email address for completion of the teacher recommendation form
  3. Reports for educational, developmental, and psychological testing within the last two years, including an I.Q. test and achievement tests for both reading and math
  4. The student’s most recent report card
  5. A student record release form
  6. A parent’s description of the student; and a photo (optional).

After the application process, an interview and a classroom visit are required.

All of the school’s students have some sort of difficulty in mainstream school, whether it is academic, social, or attention/processing. As TJS is specifically designed to accommodate these students, students who do not fit this key criterion may not be a good fit for the school.

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The Joy School offers one On-Track curriculum. The students focus on strengthening their academic and social skills with a “traditional curriculum taught in a non-traditional way.” The pace and method of instruction and the smaller size of their classrooms are different than what would be found in a traditional school. Most students attend TJS for two to four years before transitioning back into a mainstream school setting.

All of the students at TJS had some sort of difficulty in mainstream school. The difficulty may fall into one or more of three categories: academic, social, or attention/processing. Some students have no formal diagnosis, but many have one or more diagnosed learning differences or other special needs. The most common diagnoses among the student body include dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, expressive language disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, high-functioning autism, non-verbal learning disability, anxiety, ADHD, ADD, auditory processing disorder, and receptive language disorder.

The Joy School’s mission is to “prepare students with learning differences to return to traditional classroom settings by enabling them to reach their academic and social potential in a safe, supportive environment.” TJS has a student to teacher ratio of 4:1, and the classes have a maximum of 6-8 students each.

The Joy School offers Spanish for Fun as an elective. There is no foreign language requirement.

At TJS, students in the lower school attend a weekly fine arts class. Middle school students choose two electives each semester, one of which must be within the fine arts. Examples of elective offerings at TJS include Visual Art, Glee Music, Photography, Trash Art, Museum Study, Home Economics, Spanish for Fun, Film Appreciation, Origami, and Cultures Around the World. The after-school programs also incorporate art.

Technology is integrated into the students’ work at The Joy School. Lower school students have access to laptops, iPads, and SmartBoards in the classroom. Also available to students are computer-based, remedial programs used for reading, decoding and fluency. In the upper elementary grades, typing is introduced. Beginning in middle school, most students bring their own laptops or tablets to school each day. The computer programs used by students range from Microsoft Office applications to assistive technology software, such as text-to-speech or math organizers.

The Joy School’s after school programs include art, other recreational activities, and study hall. The students take field trips to Main Street Theater, Miller Outdoor Theater, and The Houston Symphony. The school itself is located in Houston’s Museum District, with easy access to such places as the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Natural Science.

TJS does not have interscholastic sports, but students participate in P.E. and recess during school hours.

Parents of TJS students may participate in or volunteer at these annual events: Family Fun Night, Fall Festival, Annual Luncheon, Donuts with Dad, Muffins with Mom and Field Day/Egg Drop.

Q&A With the The Joy School

Ask your questions about the The Joy School here.

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