Business Spotlight: Fusion Academy features one-on-one instruction in North Coastal San Diego County



Most middle and high school-aged students, as well as their parents and teachers, know the struggle of class sizes that are just too large for them to get enough individual attention. Not at Fusion Academy.

The accredited private middle and high school (grades 6-12) — which has locations around the U.S but still maintains its flagship campus in Solana Beach at 512 Via de la Valle — has a take on class sizes that is, quite literally, unique.

“We teach all of our courses one-to-one,” explained Alexis Archambault, the enthusiastic and personable head of school for Fusion Academy’s Solana Beach campus. “We have a heavy focus on mentoring and the teacher-student relationship. Not only are the teachers there to teach the content and the curriculum, but they are there to mentor the students and be a support for them.”

What started in 1989 as a learning center out of founder Michelle Rose Gilman’s house in Cardiff, has now expanded to five other states — New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Texas and Virginia — as well as Washington, D.C. There are 15 California campuses in the San Diego, Los Angeles and Bay areas.

All of them are founded on the principles that Rose Gilman discovered while working with kids in her garage.

“She was curious about the disconnect between understanding the information in a one-to-one setting (like tutoring) and then not being able to show that mastery in a classroom, and to her it really came down to the relationships,” Archambault said.

But its one-to-one classroom setting isn’t the only aspect of the Fusion experience that stands out. Students can get the individualized instruction in a variety of ways that often appeal directly to kids that have trouble staying engaged in traditional classes.

Available classes range from one-to-one art classes that allow the teacher to tailor instruction to a student’s particular talents, to a music room with a working recording studio where students can play guitar, drums, bass and learn the mixing equipment, to a visual arts class where students can learn graphic design and video game design (and several students have created their own apps which are available on iTunes), to yoga and, starting next year, karate.

Additional experiences for Fusion’s full-time, high school-age students come from the required Wellness Courses. This includes a class called Healthy Habits, where the high-schoolers learn problem-solving skills, coping skills and work on building relationships and achieving physical, mental and emotional balance.

Along with the usual Spanish and French, students can learn Japanese and American Sign Language.

The majority of Fusion’s courses are UC approved and transfer to college applications, and the academy has a counselor who helps with college admissions or the transition to whatever the students’ next phase of life entails.

Almost every hour-long class is followed by an hour of what the school calls Homework Café, an innovative concept that fills two important roles: socializing and finishing school work before getting home.

“Homework Café put students in a common area, where they are both doing their homework and having time to socialize, meet peers and play games,” Archambault said. “If a student is taking three courses per day, which is pretty typical for a full-time student, that’s three hours with a teacher and three hours of Homework Café.

“It is a really social environment. You’re able to get your work done — the ideal situation is you get your homework done here before you go home for the day — but you also have time to meet people with similar interests.”

The unique environment at Fusion Academy appeals to a broad range of students and the school is set up to accommodate them all. The academy is open to those needing individual instruction for just one or two classes, kids participating in outside activities (athletes, actors, musicians) who benefit from the school’s flexible schedule, gifted learners who may need an accelerated pace to stay engaged, as well as kids facing learning or social challenges.

“The common thread is that a traditional school isn’t working for you,” Archambault explained.

For the students who need therapeutic help, Fusion’s staff includes a marriage and family therapist and one that deals with substance prevention.

Archambault adds that tuition varies greatly because students pay by the class each semester, but for full-time students, the cost is comparable to the private middle and high schools in the area.

Fusion Academy, 512 Via de la Valle, Suite 201, Solana Beach

(858) 792-2300

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