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!

Brain Power: What Kind of Learner Am I?

Smart is not
Just being best
At spelling bees,
A tricky test.
Or knowing all the answers ever…
Other things are just as clever.
Every hour of every day,
We’re smart in our own special way.
And nobody will ever do…
The very same smart thing as you.

All the Ways to Be Smart by Davina Bell

You have probably heard of book smarts. Even street smarts and people smarts. But have you heard of nature smart? Or music smart? How about word smart? 

At Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA), we believe that all kids are smart, born with their own unique set of gifts. Our job is to affirm, stretch and celebrate the unique gifts we are all given–from book smart to number smart and everything in between. 

At the beginning of each school year, AACA teachers empower our K-8 students to uncover how they are smart. The goal is to help students shift the question away from “am I smart?” to “how am I smart?” We begin this work with self-reflection, a study of the brain and by diving into the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. 

Self-Reflection & Self-Awareness

The journey of self-discovery at AACA is focused on a reflection of personal interests, strengths and personality traits. Our students spend time observing their own behavior and answering questions about things they enjoy doing, what comes easy, and what things are challenging. They 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, students share what they’ve learned about themselves and challenge 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.

Brain Power!

Even in kindergarten, AACA teachers begin to explain how our brains work. 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. Knowledge is power when it comes to ownership for our bodies, our actions and our lives.

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Our work at AACA is deeply based on Harvard professor Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

Gardner’s theory of the 8 intelligences graphic

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences explains the different ways we learn and express our innate intelligence. We explore ways that we can learn new concepts, paying attention to which type comes most naturally to us and which types are more challenging. No person has just a single intelligence—we are a beautiful combination of all the different ways to learn. 

Here are a couple of examples of the multiple intelligences in action:  

  • Someone who has strong interpersonal skills may learn best when working with a partner or team.  
  • A person with strong linguistic skills may be a word-smith or skilled at picking up new languages.
  • Someone with strong kinesthetic abilities may learn sight words better if they do jumping jacks while they spell words out loud.

This philosophy is so important to us that we’ve even installed the 8 symbols in the courtyard of our new building. It’s also tied in with our mascot and kite philosophy. Affirming, stretching and celebrating our smarts is a huge part of who we are.

The courtyard of the new Almond Acres Charter Academy building. There are 4 windows displayed and above each window is a round plaque with a symbol and word illustrating the multiple intelligences.

Boosting Knowledge & Confidence

AACA teachers use this new-found knowledge to boost student’s self-worth and confidence. Teachers incorporate the different ways of learning into lessons, being sure to vary the way new information is presented for all types of learners. We look for ways to draw out individual talents and recognize students for their unique contributions, while not ignoring areas that may need more nurturing and stretching. 

Understanding ourselves also helps understand others. When our students uncover all the ways they are smart, we notice an increase in empathy toward classmates. Everyone is smart in their own way! 

AACA celebrates all the ways we are smart. We believe our individual intelligences are gifts that bring color to our world and teach us that we can accomplish so much together. How are you smart? 

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!

Be TeRRiFiC: Respectful

Students at Almond Acres Charter Academy focus their attention on the front of a classroom. The students are performing hand motions. They are wearing brightly colored school uniforms.

Recently, in our series on How to Be TeRRiFiC, we took a deep dive into what it means to be trustworthy. We use the acronym TeRRiFiC to help us remember the 5 character traits that make us terrific: trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair and caring. This week, we are unpacking the concept of respect and how we teach children to be respectful of themselves, the people they meet, and the world around them. 

While the concept seems simple, respect is a learned behavior relative to the environment in which a child grows. From families to schools and nations and cultures, every unique environment we enter operates with a different lens for respect. Our children model the norms of respect they observe and are taught at home, at school, on the playground and at sports practices. 

While modeling respect is perhaps one of the greatest ways we teach this character trait at school, an easy phrase that illustrates this concept is the Golden Rule: treat others the way you wish to be treated. The Golden Rule is a simple lesson, and yet, like most simple things, it can have the most profound impact. When put into everyday practice, the ripple effect of our treatment of others reaches far and wide. 

An Almond Acres staff member helps a student select lunch items. There are other students waiting in line behind the one making a selection.

Here are a few ways you might see, feel, and hear RESPECT in action: 

Being respectful might LOOK like:

…caring for your classroom and materials.

…taking turns.

…a handshake and eye contact.

Being respectful might SOUND like:

…Please. 

…Thank you.  

…Hi! How are you?

Being respectful might FEEL like: 

…trust in yourself to do the right thing.

…peaceful and secure.

…kindness. 

When we are respectful of ourselves and others, our actions lead to positive change in everything from relationships to self-worth and even academic success. At Almond Acres, respect is the cornerstone of our school community. The sense of caring and respect between staff and students is visible. We believe that this mutual respect helps us grow great kids who confidently and respectfully navigate any environment they enter.  

Showing your children how you respect them with words and actions encourages your children to be respectful. We can model the actions we seek and actively expect our children to rise to our positive example. How can you model respect for your heart, mind, body and soul today? 

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!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Almond Acres Charter Academy middle school students are acting on a stage dressed in costumes. In the forefront of the picture, two students are recording the production.

Over the last two years, our annual theater production has looked a little different due to the pandemic and our move to a new school building, but this year we are back and bigger than ever with a show everyone is sure to love! Our middle school drama students are excited to welcome a live audience to our student-led performance of The Lion King, Jr. on Saturday, December 17th at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, December 18th at 2 p.m. at the Paso Robles Youth Arts Center. The shows are open to the public and tickets can be purchased at this link for $10. 

Dena Vertrees, this year’s director and producer, as well as an AACA 4th grade teacher, has been working with students and volunteers to make this year’s show the best yet. Our talented cast of 4th-8th grade  students have been hard at work, spending countless hours both during and after school to prepare for the production. These productions are unique because we allow a lot of freedom for the students to help create the play: from acting to curtains and even working backstage to move the sets, the students learn valuable skills like teamwork, patience and responsibility. 

The synergy that is born out of the students’ creative collaboration is always appreciated by the audience and the effects of their hard work are lasting. Take it from the students in past performances, like Madagascar, our theater productions grow great kids: 

 I like to pretend to be someone I am not, and I like that I can put a lot of my emotion into something. I can go on a whole journey with my character. My biggest highlight of the show was spending time with the whole cast because I made stronger relationships with some people and the cast was awesome!

Divy Emmons, who starred as Marty the Zebra in the 2020 performance of Madagascar.

As always, our efforts are made better by the volunteers who contribute their time and expertise. This year Shiloh Hamon is the lead costume designer, Geoff Higgins is the lead set designer and Wendy Woodard and Ashley Lundy have choreographed the show. They are joined by cast member parents who support the production in all areas. Every member of the design department is a volunteer and helps support the students to create a visually stunning and enjoyable performance. 

You won’t want to miss this one! Bring your children, the grandparents and neighbors to this year’s production of The Lion King Jr. on December 17th & 18th. The costumes, action and sets are sure to delight all ages! 

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!