New Almond Acres facility in Paso Robles under construction

Almond Acres Charter Academy, a tuition-free K-8 charter school, is currently offering open enrollment through March 15 as the school undergoes construction of its new 32,000 square foot facility, located at 1145 Niblick Road in Paso Robles, at the site of a former church facility.

Almond Acres has been teaching students in San Luis Obispo County at its original San Miguel location since 2012. The school will mark its 10-year anniversary this fall at its new Paso Robles location.

The new school is being built with an emphasis on “functionality to support Almond Acres’ educational model of educating the whole child,” a news release from the school says. In conceptualizing the design of the new school space, Bob Bourgault, director of Almond Acres, referenced studies showing that academic achievement thrives when teachers collaborate.

“We are extremely motivated to provide a learning environment that incites in our students a passion and desire to learn, and empowers them to be the very best version of themselves,” said Bourgault. “We are confident that our new school will provide the perfect venue for nurturing project-based learning, service learning, and meaningful educational experiences. These are the keys to unlocking outstanding learning and student success.”

Artist rendering of Almond Acres Charter Academy

The physical focus of the school building “emphasizes dynamic space usage to support teacher collaboration.” The design of the school’s classrooms will allow teachers to freely access classrooms, from one to the other, and interspersed group meeting rooms will allow up to four teachers to easily collaborate ad hoc or in scheduled meetings.

Special education services will also be seamless in the new building. This will result in special education students spending less time away from core class environments, eliminating any stigma with leaving class.

Almond Acres’ new internal courtyard opens skyward and includes fountains and natural elements. The multipurpose room serves varied needs, including a gymnasium for athletics and an internal collapsible wall allowing both spaces (the gym and central courtyard) to hold 500-800 people for events. Surrounding the gym is an atrium and hallway to buffer sound. Designing the gym to be inside the core of the building will also keep all K-8 children safe.

The intentional design layout for Almond Acres’ classrooms and where they are located within the school aligns with grade level and developmental milestones. The kindergarten and first grade classrooms are the largest, allowing plenty of room for young children to move. Classrooms for grades 2-3 and 4-5 will be located side-by-side, respectively, with shared collapsible classroom walls to integrate subject areas and share teacher expertise and passions.

Almond Acres’ middle school is housed in two wings at the front of the new school building. One wing will focus on the humanities – language arts and social sciences – and will include a college library-inspired space. The other middle school wing is for STEM and STEAM classes (science and art) and includes a creativity lab.

Outside of the school structure, the Almond Acres playground is lower than building-level which creates a natural amphitheater. The fields are completely ADA compatible and boast access on all sides. The entire school is circled by a drop off lane for easy pickup and drop off; though external classroom doors can only be opened from the inside. This design video showcases Almond Acres’ design, and this video provided by DLW Architects also illustrates the perimeter of the building along with outdoor spaces within the structure.

“It’s so exciting, and symbolic, that the groundbreaking and construction of our new school coincides with our open enrollment period,” said Ed Surber, Almond Acres board member. “The buzz and excitement is palpable and seeing the surge of interest in Almond Acres is proof that we are doing what’s right for our community. If anyone is considering joining the Almond Acres family, now is the best time!”

“At Almond Acres Charter Academy, student learning informs everything we do,” added Bourgault. “We even toured the nearby Allegretto Hotel with our 8th graders for inspiration on how to incorporate art into our building. They’re tasked with creating and designing our entry atrium welcoming one and all to our 21st century school designed with student learning front of mind.”

For more about Almond Acres Charter Academy and the new building in Paso Robles, opening for the 2021-2022 school year, call (805) 467-2095.

Via Paso Robles Daily News

Philosophy to Facility

At Almond Acres, we grow great kids. Our new school in Paso Robles is going to be a beautiful expression of our teaching and educational philosophy in 4D. We are taking our educational philosophy and bringing it to life in our school building. 

How do we do this? With intention! And planning. It is our philosophy to facility. We will educate the whole child here  — heart, mind, body and soul — to the eight intelligences. Let’s visit the plans together. 

school room plan

Our focus is to create spaces that are dynamic — where collaboration can readily appear. This collaboration could be between teachers, students, and staff and will stimulate our project-based learning, while keeping every child safe within a self-contained campus. 

An interior classroom wall can open so two classes can join together. Teachers can co-teach students allowing them to augment and supplement their lessons with one another — and share ideas, talents and expertise. After all, the eight intelligences apply to our teachers just as it does to every AACA student. 

Distance learning has taught us how well our teachers collaborate and share expertise. We carry this idea forward by having grades adjoining one another so K-1 can collaborate, 2-3, 4-5, and middle school. We are shifting the siloed teacher/classroom paradigm into a malleable, flexible and collegial experience for all educators alongside our paradigm shift for their students. 

Studies show academic achievement thrives best when teachers collaborate. Our new adjoining classroom ideas not only allow teachers and classes to adjoin, we also have small group meeting rooms and shared teacher offices. Up to four teachers will share an office and our small group meeting rooms will allow specialists to push into the classroom more easily and kids to spend less time away from their core class environment and eliminate any stigma they may feel leaving their class.

school floor plan

Our internal courtyard will be open to the sky overhead.  We will have fountains and natural elements; it will be an inviting and peaceful welcoming. Our eighth graders are creating monuments to all eight intelligences. They could be sculptures, poems, rock carvings — we cannot wait to see what they design! 

Our multipurpose room will serve many needs including a gymnasium for athletics.. It also has an internal collapsible wall that can fold up and allow both spaces (the gym and central courtyard) to hold 500-800 people. By having the gym inside the core of the school building we keep all children safe. There is a hallway surrounding the gym and atrium to buffer sound. 

Our Kindergarten and first grade classes are at the north end of the building and have slightly larger classrooms. Our second and third grades and fourth and fifth grades will be side-by-side with the collapsible wall in-between to integrate subject areas and share teacher expertise and passions. 

Our middle school will have two wings at the front of our new school. These two areas will be academies that focus on humanities classes like language arts and social sciences. We will have a learning space here that mimics a college library. The other middle school wing will have STEM and STEAM classes — including a creativity lab. This project-based learning lab will be used for science and art classes. 

Outside, our playground is lower to ease some elevation changes. This creates a natural amphitheater. The fields are completely ADA compatible with access on all sides. Our classroom doors to the outside do not have door handles on the exterior;  our students, stuff and teachers re-enter through main access doors. The entire school is circled by a drop off lane for easy pickup and drop off. Our video below explains every aspect of our design. 

At Almond Acres Charter Academy teaching, supporting and stretching the whole child is always top of mind. With our new school facility in Paso Robles, we will bolster student retention while encouraging creativity. We can improve neurological strength in our soon-to-be engaging, dynamic and flexible school spaces. We encourage collaboration for teachers and students alike…and soon our school will enable this even further.  This is how we grow great kids. We cannot wait to share this new school with YOU!

About Almond Acres 

Almond Acres is moving to Paso Robles. Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students in all communities, the school is currently located in San Miguel and moving to Paso Robles for the 2021-22 school year. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

WELCOME BACK

Welcome Back! School Starts Monday, August 23rd We are looking forward to seeing you!  Almond Acres Charter Academy will be housed at two temporary locations until our new school site is move-in ready. K-3rd grade will be at Centennial Park and 4th-8th grade will be...

A Simple Mission: Children First

At the heart of our small, intentionally built school is one clear goal: nurture the whole child, heart, mind, body, and soul. The simplicity of our mission makes decision-making easy. We put children at the forefront of our planning for all parts of our day from curriculum to our environment (including our new school building) to how we spend our time together. 

Almond Acres Charter Academy young student stands next to a magnetic board with the words heart, mind, body, and soul spelled out

Putting our values and priorities first in our lives lets us live the life we wish for. This is true for education and school-settings, too. This paradigm shift — to focusing on the individual and whole child — is needed in public education right now. We want every person to be thinking about each child – how to dignify them – before the academic and assessment goals. 

Here are some example of how we grow great kids, according to parents, AACA teachers and other care-giving grown-ups: 

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“ There are two things that stand out to me about AACA that makes them different from traditional education. First, they emphasize the importance of growing great kids that eventually turn into great citizens. One of the ways they do this is to teach them how to problem solve by finding the next right thing they can do. 

Mr B. shared a story with me of a former student who observed her AACA classmates walking away from a fight at the high school. He knew they made that good choice because they had the philosophies of finding the next right thing ingrained in them. 

The second thing they do that is different from traditional education is they find how each student is smart and encourages them in that direction. That is an out-of-the-box way to think about education and I know my son will benefit from his teachers working with him in that way.”

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“As an educator, I admired AACA’s educational philosophy of teaching the whole child. The staff truly believes that all students can learn and everyone is great at something. They build their curriculum and instruction around each child’s learning modalities as well as providing the rigor and content required for students. 

One of the things that sets AACA apart from other public schools is their instruction on the different intelligences: Heart, Mind, Body and Soul. Students, parents and staff get to know the best ways they learn and process information through these 4 intelligences. Students learn to advocate for themselves by knowing how they best learn, teachers and staff can create lessons and activities to challenge students in these areas and push them to learn and develop in other areas.”

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“My daughter, who will be in 2nd grade, started kindergarten at AACA after a year of kindergarten at a different school. Because of her genetic disorder, and being nonverbal she was made to feel different than the other students, didn’t connect with the staff or her peers, and developed major behavioral issues. As soon as she started over in kindergarten at AACA, everything changed. 

From the first day she stepped on campus she was made to feel a part of the school and her peers. After two years, and two of the most amazing teachers, she has friends, is learning and reading and truly loves school. The dedication, hard work and passion from the general education teachers, special education teacher, her aide and the school as a whole has created an environment that makes her feel included, smart, important and loved. 

She walks down the hallway and everyone says hi, students know her by name, not the girl who can’t talk. The idea that everyone is smart in their own way, and that you don’t have to do something one way for it to be right is a key component to AACA’s philosophy, and a reason that everyone in San Luis Obispo County should be honored to have this school within the county.”

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“Our youngest son at AACA needs an emphasis on social/emotional learning. AACA strongly emphasizes this learning from the top down. To share a personal example, when our son was struggling to control his emotions and impulses, we met with the administration to create a plan for his success. Right away we learned that he could take a break by flashing ANY staff member the “fist of five”. What does that mean? He can quickly and unobtrusively flash his emotional level on a scale of 1-5 over his heart and that will communicate to EVERY staff member that he needs a break because they are all trained in “fist of five” from the Principal to the Bus Driver! 

Our son has learned so much about his personal learning style and what makes him a unique learner and he can communicate that to EVERYONE at AACA because every year every student creates their kite; a visual representation of their individual strengths and weaknesses in heart, mind, body, and soul.

In short, AACA actively engages each child in their own learning process. AACA imbues a love of learning in their students. They are not just being taught how to succeed in the classroom but how to succeed in life and as members of their community.” 

Almond Acres Charter Academy teacher and student discuss work during a class conference

At AACA, we celebrate the differences that make every child unique. We inform our students how to self-identify the ways they learn best. We do not fit kids into molds. Every child is special and valuable. And this paradigm shift — when put into action and lived every day — both at home and at school — transforms how we parent and how we educate. 

In public schools today — 1/3 of kids thrive, 1/3 of kids survive, and 1/3 of kids take a dive. The kids who take a dive will find alternatives, so they can thrive. For example, they might go to a trade school. AACA wants to be a place for the kids who are just surviving at public school. These kids could thrive with AACA! 

AACA may be a fit for one of your children. Not every child in the family has to attend – some families have kids at multiple schools. We are here for one or all of the kids who want a different way to learn, a new approach.  At Almond Acres Charter Academy, we affirm the strengths and struggles of each learner, stretch their knowledge and skills, and celebrate their accomplishments, large and small.  We believe that a love of learning comes naturally in an environment that focuses on empowering students to be active participants in their own education. 

About Almond Acres:

Almond Acres is moving to Paso Robles. Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students in all communities, the school is currently located in San Miguel and moving to Paso Robles for the 2021-22 school year. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

Why We’re A K-8 School

Most of the schools in town are traditional elementary and middle schools — K-5 and 6-8. This format means students switch schools after fifth grade no matter what. Throw in preschool, and that’s three scholastic transitions before high school with the shift from elementary to middle school being the most significant and potentially jarring. 

Transitioning from school to school is disruptive and can impact students academic performance, social emotional health and sense of safety. At Almond Acres, the benefits of a K-8 education include specialized instruction, deeper student/teacher/community relationships, ongoing structure and routine, fewer transitions, and robust leadership opportunities. 

AACA cross country

Attending a K-8 feels more comfortable, relaxing and safe; students perform better academically than students at a traditional 6-8 or 6-12 school. As confirmed by a recent study from the AMERICAN EDUCATION RESEARCH JOURNAL, we agree that our K-8 school is beneficial to our kids academically and socially. 

“In a K-8 system, there isn’t that transition, and even better, our older kids become leader examples  to our younger kids, and they have a relationship  almost between different generations, and it  creates a much more family oriented experience.“

Mr. B, Executive Director, Almond Acres 

We meet our AACA kids where they are developmentally. Our K-8 model allows us to curate a challenging curriculum, but in the context of an intentional, safe school that nurtures. At this age, AACA middle schoolers are naturally developing leadership abilities. We introduce, encourage, and ignite the responsibility that aligns with being the oldest students in our charter school. 

And for students transferring into Almond Acres, at any time and grade, our middle school offers a true community.  It is possible to attend a middle school that is a positive environment for growth and development as a tween and early teen. Our middle school embraces sixth to eighth graders as current AND future leaders, ideators, problem-solvers, and independent contributors. Our students, teachers and parents love our middle school, an age and stage that can sometimes get overlooked for quality education, so much so we wrote a blog about it. 

girls in red shirts

Middle schoolers lead tours for prospective families, help with our Shared Start morning assemblies and more. Due to our small size, 1:28 teacher-to-student ratio — our middle schoolers can each be known for who they are. And as an example of what they can do together as a class — our seventh grade recently created a Family Forum where families came together to discuss issues pertinent to middle schoolers while playing games in a relaxed atmosphere. Family Forum created a casual platform for conversation about challenges our middle school kids are currently facing. Not only was the event well-executed, the middle school students showed tremendous maturity and willingness to both share and listen.

With our new school facility opening in fall of ‘21 in time for our the 2021-2022 school year, every K-8 kid will have an innovative and state-of-the-art academic experience. Our new school includes indoor and outdoor play spaces, collapsible classroom walls to invite collaboration and shared learning, small meeting spaces for faculty to collaborate, and a combinable gym and atrium to hold large events. Our middle school will have science labs and a college-inspired academic library. We can’t wait to celebrate learning together, for years to come, at this intentionally designed learning environment. 

AACA volleyball

Every year, another graduating AACA 8th grade class heads off to high school. It makes us very proud to see how our Almond Acres students find success beyond our walls  — as leaders, academics, problem-solvers, artists, athletes, ideators and good citizens. The only thing that eases melancholy as we see our beloved students move on, is welcoming each and every new student into our doors. We’re enrolling K-8 at our compassionate, dynamic K-8 tuition-free charter school. Join us!  

About Almond Acres

Almond Acres is relocating to Paso Robles. Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students in all communities, the school is currently located in San Miguel and moving to Paso Robles for the 2021-22 school year. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

Random Public DrawingThursday, March 25th at 6pm

Join us via Zoom for a random, public drawing to determine enrollment and waitlists for the 2021-2022 school year!