The 180 fourth- through eighth-grade students who arrived to the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 13 at Hollister School District’s Accelerated Achievement Academy brought their excitement and anticipation with them to the Buena Vista Drive campus.
Different from the local district’s other nine elementary and middle schools, all of AAA’s students were chosen to be part of the Project Based Learning program, which is designed to nurture the educational experience for high-achieving and highly motivated students. All 5,500 students in the Hollister district began the new school year on Monday.
“Everything was great. It was really smooth, a really nice opening with a lot of happy kids and a lot of happy families,” said second-year principal Scott Wilbur, whose daughter attended AAA. “I’m a parent and principal, so I’m a big fan.”
There are two fourth-grade classes for the first time, along with one class for each grade level above, as the magnet school grew by 50 students for the 2018-19 school year. AAA is ranked sixth in the state for middle schools and 25th in the state among elementary schools, according to Wilbur. The school plans to gradually grow to two classes for each grade level year by year.
“We haven’t had any trouble recruiting,” said Wilbur, explaining that students are identified by their report cards, standardized test scores and internal test scores within the district.
The family is contacted and invited to apply for admission. An application can be found on the school’s website. The student must submit a writing sample and be interviewed for consideration.
“In the past, we’ve been kind of the best-kept secret in town. But last year the superintendent told me it was my job to grow and talk about AAA,” Wilbur explained. “We’ve always done well academically, but we’re more than just test scores.”
Students and their families are required to do 20 hours of public service throughout the school year to “connect with the local community,” Wilbur said.An active parent club raises about $20,000 per year to allow students at each grade level to visit a California college campus such as UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley or Stanford. Students also make trips to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
“We really want the students to start thinking and planning what (colleges) they want to go to,” Wilbur said.
AAA also holds at least one Project Based Learning Night, where students must share what they have learned with the school community.