North County's first charter school set to open its doors in San Miguel next fall

After receiving the support of the San Miguel school board Thursday night, the North County’s first charter school is set to open its doors next fall.

As a result, the San Miguel Joint Unified School District, which has not seen the student growth it had previously projected, could eventually bring in more than 400 new students within the next five years.

The board’s 4-1 approval means open enrollment can proceed in February, one year after the Paso Robles school district rejected the charter.

A group of parents, educators and community members from the North County had proposed the charter for Paso Robles, hoping to create smaller class sizes and emphasize technology. But the Paso board said their proposal wasn’t detailed enough, didn’t include adequate facilities and wouldn’t be ready to open on time.

The charter proponents had planned to resubmit their proposal to Paso, but then found a more welcome host in San Miguel, which had a facility available.

The school, to be named Almond Acres Charter Academy, will share a site with the Lillian Larsen School, which has six open classrooms that had been built to accommodate a population boom that didn’t occur. The school will open with grades K-6, including 158 students and seven new teachers. The school will eventually expand to K-8, more than doubling the student population at the site.

San Miguel schools superintendent Curt Dubost recommended the board approve the charter, which he believes will help improve the district’s performance while also bringing in a small amount of money.

The charter school’s principal will be Jim Fotinakes, who retired as Templeton High School’s principal in 2009.

The county’s only other charter school is the Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter School in Avila Beach, which includes 146 students in grades K-6.