Benefits of a K-8 School

If you’ve ever stepped inside Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA), you sense that our school feels more like a home than just a school building. Everyone knows your name, from teaching staff to students to parents. We spend a lot of time together—our students are with us when learning the alphabet, multiplication tables and all the way through the formative years of middle school. This sense of family is a powerful benefit of attending our K-8 school.

student actors in a movie

Safe and Nurturing Environment 

By attending a K-8, families have fewer transitions and students get to remain in a safe, developmentally appropriate environment that nurtures students right where they are, suggests a Harvard Education Magazine study. The familiarity of the buildings, scheduling, and the staff gives students confidence and knowledge as they grow. Also—who doesn’t love fewer drop offs when you have multiple kids in school? 

The safe community feel of a K-8 building contributes to fewer discipline and behavior problems than a traditional middle school. And fewer behavior issues means less time pulled away from academics. Higher grades and greater involvement in extracurriculars like sports and performing arts, are a pretty great benefit, too. 

Leadership, Agency & Confidence

Have you noticed that leadership is a central tenet of our philosophy? 

Throughout the up to 9 years at Almond Acres, students are provided many opportunities to practice and learn character traits through the Leader in Me curriculum. The consistent messaging of our Habits of Mind in the classroom and during Shared Start, means that our AACA students get the opportunity to go more and more in depth each year. Students also practice these traits in the community through service learning projects, a cornerstone of our curriculum. 

Our middle school students look forward to the chance to be “top dogs” at Almond Acres. 7th and 8th graders serve as role models for the younger students and serve as the Student Body Leadership Team. They are proud to hold this responsibility and aim to set a good example for younger students. Additionally, our Buddy Program gives elementary students an opportunity to see that middle school can be pretty awesome.

Almond Acres also offers athletics for our entire K-8 student body. From intramurals to competitive teams, there is something for everyone. We cheer each other on from the start—it’s common to see our elementary students cheering on our middle school athletes. The athletic and team skills our students learn early on support greater participation in middle school. 

4 Almond Acres students in bright yellow uniforms run on a track

Students at a K-8 school also experience higher levels of self-esteem. At Almond Acres, we help students get to know all the ways they are smart. We focus on their strengths as we affirm, stretch and celebrate each individual. Students feel comfortable being challenged, learning new things, and taking risks. Our K-8th graders learn how to fail and start again for all nine years in a supportive atmosphere with trusted adults ready to help and guide.

Culture of Community

When you enroll at Almond Acres, you get more than an education, you get a school home that feels like family. Our K-8 culture is built on positive teacher-student-family relationships with emphasis on service to our community.

Our students benefit from a sense of security and support in knowing our teachers are there beyond the time shared in classrooms. We often see students make special connections with an elementary teacher and come back to stop by the classroom as a seventh grader; just to check in.

Almond Acres families are considered our greatest assets. Families participate in activities, fundraisers and decision making. They attend field trips, help out in the classrooms and support our teachers. We are thankful for parent involvement from kindergarten to 8th grade, which frees up time so Almond Acres staff can do what they do best: teach the heart, mind, body, and soul of every child. And parents love to see first-hand what happens at school, strengthening the school-home connection.

At Almond Acres, we are proud to offer our child-centered, holistic education and the benefit of consistency, support, mentorship and a school family for nine straight years. Rely on us to help create a secure foundation for your child. We are enrolling now for Fall 2022!

About AACA

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. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from 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! 

Opinion: Inventive Approaches to Education Here in North County

Connie Pillsbury is an independent opinion columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email her at

While parents and local school boards bicker over curriculum, masks, and mandates, a quiet and profound educational pivot is occurring behind the scenes in San Luis Obispo County. “Necessity is the mother of invention” applies here, as exponential numbers of parents are generating new and novel educational programs outside of the public school system.

Just a few of the expanding options on the leading edge of this shift are the county-wide Heartland Charter School, Almond Acres Charter Academy in Paso Robles, Learn Academy in Atascadero, Christ Classical School, and SLO Classical School in San Luis Obispo.

Heartland Charter School is a tuition-free, public independent study charter school serving kindergarten through 12th grade in nine California counties. The Heartland community is composed of homeschooling families under the guidance and direction of credentialed Heartland teachers. Its unique educational funds make it a popular choice for local parents. Each student has funds which can be applied to various local approved ‘vendors’ in the areas of fine arts, music, educational and physical activities. There are over twenty vendors just in North County, including horseback, swim, martial arts, and dance lessons along with sewing, piano, art, guitar, and tutoring.

In Paso Robles, the brand new and beautiful Almond Acres Charter School, made possible through the vision and support of its founders and local parents and donors, is open on Niblick Lane for full classroom learning for K-8 students. Focused on complementary academic instruction across all grade levels, math, science and technology focus, leadership, and fine arts, Almond Acres’s goal is to “incite a passion and desire to learn.”

Read the full article on Paso Robles Press

Vape-Free Campus

Over the 10 years we’ve been teaching at Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA), we’ve learned a few things about helping middle schoolers thrive. Things like when to push and when to give space; how to be silly but not embarrassing (middle schoolers hate that); and how to help kids make healthy decisions, like not to vape. 

Vaping may be trending nationwide, but not at Almond Acres.  We are proud to say we have a 100% vape-free campus. There are a lot of components to helping middle school students buck this trend.  Here’s how we do it: 

Structured and Joyful Middle School

We know that engaged kids are often responsible kids who don’t want to get involved with drugs and alcohol. Almond Acres middle school is designed, both in philosophy and community, to keep students active, social, and engaged. 

Five Almond Acres students standing in front of the new school

Our project-based learning gives middle school students control over the direction of their education. When students know the WHY, they become more deeply invested in learning. Inquiry projects allow our students to design the outcome and make an impact.

Accountability is at the core of our teachings.  As leaders within our K-8 school, Almond Acres middle school students take a leadership pledge. Students have an awareness of the consequences for not showing up as the best version of themselves and they don’t want to test those boundaries. This sense of control over their lives helps them rise to the high expectations we set.

With so many options for extracurricular activities like performing arts, after-school programs and community service, AACA students don’t have a lot of extra free time to make poor choices. Our robust athletics program offers everything from competitive teams to intramurals and club sports, providing an outlet for social interaction, team-building skills, and risk-taking in a safe environment. When a trophy or a PR is on the line, it’s easy to see how vaping could derail your goals. 

Embedded in our curriculum is health education that includes research-based information from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. We know that knowledge is powerful when it comes to helping our students make decisions that impact their lives. By providing students with the facts about the harmful effects of drugs on growing bodies and minds, they can make choices that will keep them on their path to a bright future.

Close Knit Community

When middle school students know they are cared for and valued for who they are, they respond in kind. Our strong community keeps our students connected within safe boundaries. And frequent communication with families makes sure there are no gaps between what occurs at school and what parents are aware of.

Almond Acres teachers and staff care for each student who walks through our doors and our small school ensures that everyone is known by name. Teachers know that relationships built on trust and respect are the most important part of helping young minds grow.

Our school-wide buddy program, which helps bridge the lower school and middle school, builds positive interactions between older and younger children. Our middle school students are well aware of their influence on younger kids and they truly desire to set a good example and be a role model.

Almond Acres middle school students sit together around a round table to work on a project together

Begin With the End in Mind

As part of AACA’s leadership curriculum, we practice using the 7 Habits of Mind to support social and emotional well-being. A student favorite is “Begin with the end in mind,” meaning to identify your goals and dreams and then make a plan to get there. Our students spend time envisioning their dreams and future and our school community supports their path to those goals. We talk about obstacles that may get in the path of their dreams, like vaping, and how to safely get around such challenges. Education is what helps us grow strong minds and strong hearts. 

We invite you and your middle schooler to join us at Almond Acres and see the positive impact a holistic, child-centered education can have on your future. Enrollment for Fall 2022 is open now!

About AACA

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. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from 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!