The entrance is an unobtrusive glass door in a modern, glass and aluminum office building.
When you step in the door, the atmosphere is nurturing. It befits an academy dedicated to individualized learning, without classrooms marked by desks in rows. Most teachers rooms have two seats — one for a teacher and one for a student — for one-on-one learning.
On the welcoming wall hangs a stylized surfboard with stylized letters "Fusion" — reflecting Fusion Academy's San Diego roots. Another wall has a burgeoning "Tree of Encouraging Words" where students and teacher affix words of praise and goals and philosophies on post-it notes shaped like maple leaves.
The first Fusion Academy in the East Bay had an opening party last weekend to mark its putting down roots in a permanent location at 3003 Oak Road, across the street from its original temporary location, where students started coming in January. The school is a long block away from the Pleasant Hill BART station, not too far from Concord.
"It's mastery learning as opposed to finding out how you do at the end of a semester," said Heather English, director of communications and outreach. "We're not going to give someone a D or an F … Because we require that a student master at least 70 percent of the content in a class before they are able to move on, we are able to help students who could get lost in a traditional school so that they will grasp the subject more easily, and they in turn will be less likely to fail quietly as they would in a class of 30 or 40."
Teachers fill out a daily summary that goes home to parents.
"Most of the students we get have been through one trauma or another," said English. Some have had trouble adjusting to traditional school.
Fusion Academy offers grade 6-12, open enrollment. Full-time school is in the daytime Monday through Thursday. The academy also offers tutoring and mentoring in evening hours and other days, starting at age 5. The school now has about a dozen full-time students and a capacity of 60 full-timers, English said.
The school includes:
- a music studio.
- a science lab.
- an art room.
- a therapy room.
- a yoga room.
- two homework "cafes" where students can read or do homework in homey settings with teachers available for questions.
One motto: "Your student is different. So is our school." On the walls hang framed pictures of students with their answers to two questions:
- What is your favorite thing about Fusion?
- If you could be any animal, what would it be?
The school charges $2,680 per class, per semester for high school, and $3,840 per class, per semester for middle school and honors classes (these classes require more instructional minutes per state standards).
Fusion Academy in Walnut Creek is awaiting accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges before setting up up a structure for financial aid and scholarships, said English.
Are you a parent or student at Fusion Academy and Learning Center, or are contemplating joining the school?
What do you think of the concept? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.