The Joy School

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 felt there was an underserved need in Houston; therefore, 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                                      

1 Chelsea Blvd, Houston, TX 77006                                                  Ms. Shara Bumgarner, Head of School

(713)523-0660                                                                             Ms. Laura Rodriguez, Director of Admissions

Religious Affiliation

The Joy School has no religious affiliation.

Location and Facilities

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 practice and Tae Kwon Do. TJS has begun construction of a new campus that is expected to be completed in August 2013. 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, girls and boys locker rooms, and it includes outdoor playing fields and a parking lot.


TJS requires: 1) Completed Online Application, 2) $350 Application Fee, 3) Teacher’s email address for completion of Recommendation Form, 4) 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, 5) Recent Report Card, 6) Student Record Release Form, 7) Parent Description of Student, 8) Photo (optional).

After the application process, an interview is required along with a classroom visit to TJS. All of the school’s students have some sort of difficulty in mainstream school, whether it is academic, social, or attention/processing.

Academic Tracks and Curriculum

The Joy School offers one Regular 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 may be different than that of traditional schools. Most students attend TJS for two to four years before transitioning back into a mainstream school setting.

Special Needs

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 the most common diagnoses among their students 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. 

Foreign Languages

The Joy School offers Spanish for Fun as an elective. 


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 in 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 include art, such as drawing and painting, recreational activities and study hall.


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.

Extracurricular Activities

The Joy School’s after school programs include art, such as drawing and painting, along with 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.

Parent Involvement

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.

The Joy School Fast Facts

School Type Independent, Coeducational, Special Education
Religious Affiliation Nonsectarian
Uniforms Yes
Date Founded 1997
Endowment $815,000
Grades Served KG – 8
Enrollment 107
     Grade 8 6
     Grade 7 15
     Grade 6 15
     Grade 5 22
     Grade 4 15
     Grade 3 16
     Grade 2 6
     Grade 1 9
     KG 3
Student to Teacher Ratio 4.5
Faculty with Advanced Degrees (%) 12/50%
Minorities in Student Body  21%
Academic Tracks Offered N/A
Advanced Placement Courses Offered N/A
Languages Offered Spanish
Calendar (Semester / Trimester / Other) Semester
Interscholastic Sports Programs N/A
Admissions (Private Schools)  
Prime Entry Points All
Tuition Grades KG-8 $30,000
Application Fee $350
Students on Financial Aid 15-20%


Excerpted from General Academic’s publication, “Houston Private & Select Public Schools: Survey, Analysis, and Research, 3rd Edition.”

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