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!

Keep Your Rudder in the Water

7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a well-loved book at our school. It is useful and thought-provoking in the best of times, but now perhaps more than ever it feels timely and even prophetic. 7 Habits thinking catapults us during tough times like these. Together, we are in a distance-learning-during-a-pandemic boat, getting bounced around. Our 7 Habits thinking can cut through the uncertainty and disequilibrium; it can be our rudder. 

There is an old saying that, “a man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.” A ship floating in water —  without direction  — can easily lose its way. A captain with a hand on the rudder guides the ship to its destination. 

Our AACA rudder  — especially right now — is guided by our principles. We will not stray from our course to grow great kids and educate with care and intention. We have the end in mind. Using our rudder, we are moving through this crisis. We are riding the waves, we will not sink! We know our strengths  — our school benefits from the power of positive principles.  

These past few weeks have especially reminded our AACA family the value of 7 Habits thinking. Together, we recognize:

  1. Being Proactive: Bring students back to school safely and as soon as possible while managing the logistics and administration of the school. 
  2. Beginning with the End in Mind: The longer we stay in Distance Learning, the harder it will be for students to achieve academic gains.
  3. Put First Things First: Make decisions based on our highest values. 
  4. Thinking Win-Win: Make decisions that will support the families and faculty/staff. 
  5. Seeking 1st to Understand all perspectives (staff, families, and students) via surveys, staff feedback, engagement levels, and staff collaboration meetings.
  6. Synergy: Work together to create the best model for all stakeholders (especially students) based on current health guidance. 
  7. Sharpen the Saw: Collegial support and stakeholder synergy is helping to keep us strong!

“I am sure glad that I know how to practice the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Determining what is in the best interest of student achievement and what is most safe are too often at odds. There are many conflicting factors as we navigate the reopening of schools.” Bob Bourgault, Director, Almond Acres Charter Academy

We are extremely grateful to our board, families, staff, and students for the patience, persistence, and positive attitudes we have all needed during this very interesting time in our shared history. 

We will continue to do the next right thing to Grow Great Kids!

Did you know our middle schoolers have a 1:28 student to teacher ratio? Every great kid is known for who they are in grades six to eight. Join our small, caring school and enroll today

About Almond Acres

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. The school is located inSan Miguel and is open to all students in all communities. 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!

We Grow Great Kids!

We are a different kind of school. Our top priority each and every day is to grow great kids. This takes precedence over everything else we do together in school. We talk about it every morning together at our Shared Start and we mention it as we leave every school meeting — on Zoom or in-person. 

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. 

kids gazing at turtle

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.” 

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! 

kindergarten class sitting on floor

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. 


News Update:

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!

Check Ins. Check Outs: A Fresh Approach to Supporting Kids

At Almond Acres we love our kids. We hold dearly to the reality that every child is unique and we nourish them as a whole child. This includes heart, mind, body and soul. Sometimes our great kids need a little bit extra and that’s why we created our check ins, check outs initiative. 

The purpose of check-ins/check outs (CICO)  is to engage our students who need extra attention or a little added support. If any of our students are struggling, they can have access to engaged, available adults at the start and end of each day, ready to offer guidance, encouragement and so much more. 

children standing against a wall

The CICO process embraces kids who may be experiencing behavioral incidents, social interaction challenges, work completion irregularity, attendance variability, and other obstacles to optimal and open-hearted learning.  These kids get positive interactions with caring AACA staff multiple times throughout the day. And it works! 

Our CICO kids have a 1:1 morning meeting each school day. We send them off from that meeting everyday with the same message, “Have the best day ever!”  

We then augment our support, praise and enthusiasm for their growth with reminders like:

  • Be the boss of your body!
  • Be a first time listener!
  • Be trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair, and caring (TRRFC)! 

Our CICO students also get visual and motivational rewards for their efforts, too. These AACA kids check in at the office in the morning and collect their point sheet. The points sheets contain a scoring system that ranks their TRRFC traits.  Throughout the day, teachers score the kiddo. At the end of the day, the CICO kids come back to the office and evaluate their wins. If  they meet their goal they get a star and for every five stars, they get a prize.  

Students who regularly meet their goal ‘graduate’ from CICO. The amount of CICO time is different for each child, much like the uniqueness that is innate to all of us. Any child who is not getting there, earns additional modifications that are even more individually curated. 

Positive affirmations and consistent, reliable adult support while at school. It may seem small — or obvious even — but it’s truly a game changer for a kid. We are so proud to be able to prioritize and carve out time for our students during the school day, in this way. CICO creates space to embrace and develop our kids  – with loving interactions from even more staff than they normally encounter each day. Stretching and celebrating every AACA K-8 student as they learn and grow is a gift.  We are honored to help them discover their whole self.  

There’s still time to join us for the 20-21 school year. We welcome and champion new students in our small, close-knit public school. Enroll with us today!  

About Almond Acres

News Update: 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!

2020 Guide to Tuition-Free, Public Charter Schools in California

Are you looking at school options for your child in California?

2020 has brought significant changes to K-12 education and this is causing a lot of parents to consider what education options are available for their children.  It can be hard to know what is the correct choice because there are many options available to parents, their local public schools, public charter schools, private schools and online schools. 

This guide will provide answers to questions like, “What is a tuition-free public school?”,  “What tuition-free public school options are available in California?” and “How do I enroll my student in charter school?”

If you are looking for answers to questions like these, read on!

backpack and supplies

What is a tuition-free public charter school in California?

A charter school is a public school that provides instruction in any combination of grades, kindergarten through grade twelve. Parents, teachers, or community members may initiate a charter petition, which is typically presented to and approved by a local school district governing board. California Education Code (EC) also allows, under certain circumstances, for county boards of education and the State Board of Education to be charter authorizing entities.

Source: https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cs/re/qandasec1mar04.asp#q1

Charter schools are public schools that get funding from the state and have greater flexibility in hiring, curriculum, management and other aspects of their operations. Unlike traditional public schools that are run by school districts with an elected school board and a board-appointed superintendent, most charter schools are run by organizations with their own self-appointed boards.

In general, this independence gives charter schools more room to experiment and to come up with instructional and other innovations.

Source: https://edsource.org/2017/10-things-to-know-about-charter-schools/583984

What tuition-free public charter schools are available for students living in California?

Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA) is a K-8 charter school where the education of our students is built on having a strong and inspiring support system in place. We deliver our high-quality service and project-based curriculum via our dedicated and experienced teachers and our we-are-a-family, tight knit AACA community. 

The California Department of Education also provides a charter school finder on their website for you to search for additional charter school options. 

What other counties and locations in California are served by tuition-free public charter schools in North County and Paso Robles?

Students enrolling in a charter school are not restricted to a certain county or school district. Parents may choose the school that they feel is most appropriate for their child. Charter schools in California must admit any child residing in the state who is qualified to attend California schools regardless of which school district the child resides in.

How do I enroll my child in a tuition-free public charter school?

Charter schools often require an application. Most applications require specific information, including name, address, birth date, name of last school attended, and ethnic background.

If you are considering enrolling your child in a charter school, you should pay close attention to any deadlines regarding that school’s enrollment policy. Some charter schools, particularly those in high demand, will have a waitlist.

Because enrollment policies and procedures vary from school to school, families should contact individual charter schools to obtain specific enrollment information.

Source: http://www.ccsa.org/understanding/families/

Almond Acres Charter Academy is enrolling. Even though the 20-21 school year has begun, we can accept and support new students. 

girl using microscope

What are the requirements for acceptance into a charter school in California?

By law, charter schools cannot have admission processes that unlawfully discriminate against students. Charter schools accept all students who want to attend. If there are more students who want to attend than there are seats available, a charter school will use a process to randomly select students, oftentimes a lottery system.

Source: http://www.ccsa.org/understanding/families/

How much does it cost to attend a charter school in California?

Public charter schools are public schools and are tuition-free. Funding for the schools comes from the state.

Are public charter schools high quality?

Studies continue to show charter school students make greater academic progress than students in traditional public schools. Sixty-seven (67) percent of California’s charter schools met student achievement targets on state tests in the 2009-10 school year compared to just 57% of non-charter schools.

Among traditionally disadvantaged students, those attending charters make greater academic progress than those in traditional public schools. In 2009-10, 74% of charter schools met student achievement targets for disadvantaged students* compared to 59% of non-charter schools. (*these are calculated by assessing California Department of Education “comparable improvement targets”)

California’s charter middle schools consistently demonstrate higher academic performance than non-charter schools. For the past five years, charter middle schools have had higher API Growth scores than non-charter middle schools. In 2009-10, middle school charters outperformed non-charters across the state and with all subgroups.

About AACA

News Update: 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! 

Brain Power: What Kind of Learner Am I?

What type of learner am I? 

A  life-long learner with high self-awareness. At Almond Acres we spend the first few weeks of school each year empowering our kids to uncover how they are smart. The question is not “am I smart?” This journey of self discovery is very much focused on HOW I’m smart. 

We are all smart in different ways. Everyone has intrinsic intelligence and our AACA kids get to figure it out for themselves. They’re in the driver’s seat uncovering how they learn best! 

Starting in kindergarten, our students take ownership of their education. Understanding this helps each student know themself; giving them both confidence and increased autonomy towards their learning. 

We start by explaining how the brain works.  We include the biology and mechanics of the brain. Our brains do so much for us – from recognizing objects, to problem-solving, to processing emotions. Understanding this from a young age can help demystify learning and everyday habits we never think about like breathing and digestion. When we understand how our brains interpret and work, we can better understand and take ownership for our bodies, our responses and our lives. 

Graphic of how the brain works: http://www.mayfieldclinic.com/pe-anatbrain.htm

Our students identify their strengths and struggles by answering questions about their preferences and tendencies. Our AACA kids observe their own behavior and interests which makes learning easier and more fun!  

We all learn in a VAK-uum! 

When it comes to learning, some of us are visual learners — we need to see it. Some of us need to hear it — we are auditory learners. Last but not least, some of us need to do it. We’re the kinesthetic learners

We are each a combination of the three. Most often we are stronger in one area. Whether in our AACA in-person classrooms or A-HA online program, knowing your learning style is as valuable as knowing your ABCs.

There are eight intelligences

Gardner’s theory of the 8 intelligences graphic: https://www.simplypsychology.org/multiple-intelligences.html

Here are a couple of examples:  

Someone who has strong interpersonal skills will learn better when working with a partner or team.  

Someone with strong kinesthetic abilities may learn sight words better if they do jumping jacks while they spell words out loud.

As Bob has shared with our AACA community previously,

Take inventory of of the amount of learning your child has accomplished…if you account for each intelligence: interpersonal, naturalist, kinesthetic, visual-spatial, logical-mathematical, linguistic, musical, and intrapersonal, you might just experience some wonder and awe. 

This growth is the result of constantly believing in the unique capacity of our children’s mind and encouraging them to learn something new everyday. 

Constantly remind your child that today is the first day of the rest of their life. Carpe Diem.  As we wake to each new day, opportunities, challenges, and wonders await!

One ACCA parent summed it up so well — here is our brain power in action: 

We spend the first three weeks of every school year focusing on self discovery and setting goals for the year – even in kindergarten!  Students work with their parents and teachers to identify strengths and struggles in all areas of their lives: heart, mind, body, and soul.  

In a student-led parent-teacher conference following this self discovery period, the student shares what they’ve learned about themselves and challenges themselves to grow – or stretch – their skills.  For example, a student may choose to learn to play an instrument, participate in the school play, or improve their reading fluency by learning 100 sight words.

Explore your child’s brain power with us

Self discovery awaits! We’re still enrolling.  It’s not too late to give your children the gift of high self awareness and a lifelong love of learning in a tight-knit, small public school. 

About Almond Acres

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. The school is located inSan Miguel and is open to all students in all communities. 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!