best public schools in santa cruz

There’s never been a tougher time to decide on your kids’ schooling and never has after school education been as important. Schools have been changing policies by the day, as they reflect government decisions about the pandemic. Those who run after school activities are taking steps to trim class size, sanitize and meet safety guidelines. We suggest you call or email them to get the most recent information.

Schools and Preschools

Chartwell School
2511 Numa Watson Road, Seaside
2511 Numa Watson Road, Seaside
Chartwell School, located on 65 acres in Seaside, CA, serves students with dyslexia and other related learning differences who are not currently reaching their full potential. We do this in grades 1-12 by providing targeted and direct instruction to empower learners with the skills, strategies, tools, and social-emotional mindset they need to thrive in college and beyond. 

Gateway School, K-8
255 Swift Street, Santa Cruz
831.423.0341 ext 302
Gateway School, founded in 1970 is an independent, co-ed day school in Santa Cruz, CA for students in grades Kindergarten through 8th. We are a community dedicated to nurturing academic excellence and intellectual curiosity, high character and personal compassion, and individual agency and engagement. We seek to prepare children to care for themselves, each other, and the world. We are the only K-8 school in Santa Cruz accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools. We invite all families interested in Gateway School to visit, ask questions, and get to know our community! For more information and to schedule a tour, please call or visit our website.

Good Shepherd Catholic School
Preschool – 8th grade
2727 Mattison Lane
Santa Cruz 95065
Welcoming children of all faiths from Preschool to Eighth grades for nearly 60 years on our centrally located 10-acre campus. Fully accredited by the Western Catholic Education Association (WCEA) with highly qualified faculty and staff providing a well-rounded curriculum that is project-based and faith-driven. Spanish, physical education, art, and life lab classes are part of the school’s curriculum with technology integrated throughout the school day. The school’s focus on community service gives the students numerous opportunities to learn and practice Catholic social teachings firsthand. Spots are still available for the fall. Offering small class sizes, in-person and outdoor learning. Sports and after-school care are available. Contact us for an in-person or virtual tour at 831.476.4000.

Holy Cross School
150 Emmet Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
For nearly 160 years, Holy Cross School has educated children in the heart of Santa Cruz, California. Holy Cross is a Preschool-8 Catholic coeducational private school that provides an environment of trust and respect; fosters spiritual and moral development; develops creativity and self-expression; challenges students to reach their full potential; and nurtures both mind and heart. The academic program includes math, science, Spanish, English Language Arts, social studies, P.E., music. Athletics programs and afterschool care are also available. Class size is limited. Visit our website at For more information, call (831) 423-4447 or email [email protected].

Kirby School
425 Encinal St., Santa Cruz
Grades 6 through 12Kirby School empowers students to shape their futures with confidence. Our independent, non-sectarian middle and high school has been preparing students for college and beyond for over 25 years. In classes averaging 12 students, teachers are responsive to each learner’s strengths and interests. Our rigorous academic and arts curriculum, intensive study paths, and inspiring faculty challenge each student based on their interests and readiness, rather than grade level. Kirby graduates go on to attend excellent four-year colleges and universities.

Live Oak School District
984-1 Bostwick Lane, Santa Cruz
(831) 475-6333
Located in the heart of Santa Cruz County, Live Oak School District is the only California Exemplary District on the Monterey Bay. Our mission is to empower, inspire and ensure equitable opportunities for every student to thrive. We teach and nurture the whole child in an academically rigorous, collaborative and innovative learning environment. Our district includes three K-5 schools: Del Mar, Green Acres and Live Oak Elementary; and Shoreline Middle School. In addition, Ocean Alternative offers a K-8 homeschool and online program. We are currently enrolling PK-8 students. Contact us at 475-6333, or visit our website at

Live Oak School District- Child Development
Del Mar Lic #444400352
Green Acres Lic #444403585
Live Oak Lic #440710379
984-5 Bostwick Lane, Santa Cruz
831.462.1116 (click on departments and then child development)
The Live Oak School District- Child Development Program offers families a Free Quality State-Funded Preschool program for 3-4-year-olds at the Del Mar, Green Acres and Live Oak Elementary School sites. We provide morning (8:30-11:30) and afternoon (12:30-3:30) preschool classes to approximately 110 children districtwide, 186 days per year plus a 4 week summer session. The State’s new higher-income guidelines allow so many more families to qualify. You may come by our office or call us to begin the process for enrollment. If space is still available we enroll year-round.

Mount Madonna School
Pre/K-12th grade
491 Summit Road, Mount Madonna
A preschool through high school focused on nurturing students’ love of learning and intellectual inquiry and cultivating a sense of belonging. MMS prepares well-rounded human beings who value collaboration, form meaningful relationships and engage with the world. The CAIS and WASC-accredited program features a Montessori-influenced Pre/K, a college-prep middle and high school program, outdoor learning and a 375-acre campus, life skills, marine biology, oceanography, an elementary through high school Spanish program, athletics, visual and performing arts. Since 1979, MMS supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity.

Ocean Alternative Education Center & Ocean Online
Ocean Alternative is an independent study/home study school in the Live Oak School District.  We offer weekly classes which include literacy, math, science, and art. Students learn to communicate and collaborate in a group-learning environment. Community events, field trips & more! Ocean Online is a non-classroom based independent study program. We offer a wide range of services including: quality, adaptable online curriculum, weekly teacher consultation and instruction, assessment and feedback, social networks of homeschooling families, resources, and a Chromebook to borrow.

Orchard School K-6
2288 Trout Gulch Road, Aptos
Orchard School, established over 30 years ago, provides a unique, yet comprehensive K-6 education. At Orchard, we weave together the magic of an extraordinary faculty, a 14-acre campus and a down to earth philosophy that nourishes and honors the natural growth and development of children. Small class sizes, an organic garden and an animal farm create enriching “whole child” learning experiences that are hands-on and individualized. We provide Strong Core Academics, Excellent Science Curriculum, Art, Music, Physical Theater/Circus Arts, Electives, Ceramics, Archery, Swimming, Leadership, Field Trips, Drama Productions, and more.

Santa Cruz Montessori
Ages 18 months – 15 years
Main Campus (Primary and Elementary)
6230 Soquel Drive, Aptos
Winston Campus (Young Children’s Community and Jr. High)
244 Cabrillo College Drive, Soquel
831.476.1646, Enrollment: ext. 12
Established in 1964, Santa Cruz Montessori is a non-profit school serving children 18 months to 15 years. Our beautiful classrooms and outdoor environments engage the children’s senses as they learn. Based on a deep understanding of child through adolescent development, our programs meet the interests and needs of our students, engaging and challenging them to do their best. We offer a supportive community of learners and an exciting Montessori curriculum including humanities, math, sciences and arts. Our mission: as a Montessori learning community, we inspire life-long learning and a more peaceful world by nurturing the natural development of the whole child.

After School Activities

adventure sports unlimitedAdventure Sports Unlimited
303 Potrero Street, #15, Santa Cruz
We teach infants through adults the joys of water and adventure. Our ocean programs introduce families to our magnificent marine environments with camping trips to Santa Cruz Island and Big Sur. We explore the world-renown underwater landscape of Monterey Bay through our Open Water Scuba courses. Come play with us!

Be Natural Music
740 Water St, Santa Cruz, CA
(831) 515-8369
Be Natural Music is a Jazz & Rock Music School based in Santa Cruz, with a satellite studio in Corralitos, and  a new location in Cupertino serving our community over the hill. Our schools offer private music lessons, Real Rock & Jazz Band classes for youth and teens, workshops, and music camps. We offer musical instruction on voice, piano & keyboard, guitar, bass, drums & percussion, saxophone, clarinet, ukulele, harp & beginning DJ lessons

The Bookakery
Check out our Bookakery Boxes, monthly subscription boxes filled with picture books, recipes, baking tools and activities, curated to foster a love of reading and baking in kids and encourages parent-child activities. Bookakery Boxes facilitate activity based learning of reading, following instructions, counting and more. Bookakery Boxes are perfect for preschoolers and early elementary age children as they head back to school or stay home this year

Cabrillo Youth Chorus

Directed by Cheryl Anderson, the Cabrillo Youth Chorus offers a comprehensive vocal music program for children 8-18 years of age, providing instruction in musicianship and theory along with exciting performance opportunities. CYC offers four levels of instruction from beginning to advanced. CYC students sing with the Santa Cruz Symphony and other performing groups, have performed in Carnegie Hall, and frequently travel to children’s choir festivals. Rehearsals take place weekly at Cabrillo College from 4:00-5:30pm; the beginning/intermediate class meets on Tuesdays, and the intermediate/advanced class on Wednesdays. More information is available online at

City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department
323 Church Street, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation is committed to keeping our community members safe and connected. This fall we are excited to offer in-person, fun, educational, and active classes for all ages All classes have been carefully planned with your safety in mind, following current County Health guidelines. Fall registration is now open. Scholarships are available. Find all the fall classes online –

Crooked Beauty Maker’s Space and Art Place
6225 Highway 9, Felton
Crooked Beauty Maker’s Space and Art Place offers art and craft supplies for sale, along with space to create. Our website has information on art shows, workshops, private parties and more; check us out virtually at or come in and say hi at 6225 Highway 9. Open Thurs. & Fri 3-6, Sat. & Sun 12-6.

Jim Booth Swim School
Santa Cruz at Harvey West Pool and Watsonville at Duncan Holbert Pool and Fitness Evolution
Be a water wonder! From our Little Otters swim class for parents and their babies to Aquaphobics, our adult beginner class, the whole family splashes together at Jim Booth swim school. Little Otters beginning at age 4 months is a gentle introduction to our 94-degree pools that will make you confident that you are guiding your infant to a happy water experience. Our group lessons emphasize quality swimming in an exciting class taught by our caring, well-qualified teachers. The whole family can swim at Jim Booth Swim School.

Junebug’s Gym
3910 Portola Drive, Suite 2, Santa Cruz
831.464.BUGS (2847)
JuneBug’s Gym is a place where your child can experience a fun-filled adventure in movement. We have a caring, respectful, and supportive staff that encourages every child in their growth of large motor skills and gymnastics along with social, emotional and cognitive development. Our goals for our students are to help them feel control and empowerment in their bodies, to build self-esteem through success, to open up imaginations, and to feel confidence and joy in their exploration of movement.

Kaijin Martial Arts
4652 Scotts Valley Drive #102
Scotts Valley, Ca 95065
Kaijin MMA is a family-friendly Martial Arts Studio. We provide a variety of martial arts classes in a safe and positive learning environment. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a great way for your child to learn self-defense. It is a fun way to promote coordination, self-awareness, physical fitness, and self-confidence. Our jiu-jitsu instructor, Gustavo Froes, is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has been instructing kids for over 30 years.  He is able to customize a personal style of teaching for children with learning disabilities. Kickboxing/Freestyle Karate promotes fitness, focus commitment, and the importance of good character. Our instructor, Dion Dangzalan, is a black belt in karate and has studied various other martial arts.

Kumon Math & Reading Centers
Aptos Center
8035 Soquel Drive, Suite 27
Aptos, CA 95003
(831) 508-8200
Santa Cruz Center
740 Front Street, Suite 150
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 824-6284
Scotts Valley Center
218-D Mt. Hermon Road
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
For more than 60 years, Kumon’s after-school math and reading programs have helped children and teens achieve academic success worldwide. Students advance through the program with an individualized learning plan. Our method improves focus and develops self-reliance. Whether your child is seeking enrichment, needs help catching up, or is just beginning their academic career, Kumon will build their confidence and help them develop skills for lifelong learning. Call us to schedule a free placement test today!

Mountain Music School
(Formerly known as B Sharp)
216-A Mt. Herman Rd, Scotts Valley CA 95066
(831)201-9605 (text or call)
Mountain Music School has brought fun, quality music lessons to the Santa Cruz Mountains since 2017. Learn to play piano, guitar, ukulele, drums, voice, and more! Students and their families enjoy an enthusiastic, lighthearted atmosphere brought by our qualified instructors. Our philosophy is that lessons should be fun!

Music Together/MusicalMe, Inc.
Locations throughout Santa Cruz and Santa Clara County
Call/Text: 831-332-9002
[email protected]
Our classes (both outdoors and online) offer the very best in early childhood music learning for ages Birth to 8 years: Music Together®: A music enrichment program for children birth to age 5, and the grownups who love them.  Enhancing children’s learning in multiple domains (mentally, physically, socially, etc.), increasing family engagement and, adding richly to each family’s “toolbox”. Siblings are welcome, especially infants who may attend free if they are 8 months or under. Canta y Baila ConmigoTM: A unique curriculum for young children (ages Birth to 5 years) with dual, complementary goals of music education and language immersion.  Designed for beginners and native speakers alike, CyBC creates a playful, interactive atmosphere where language learning is integrated naturally and organically in the musical experience. Rhythm Kids®: A drumming, music, and movement, program for children ages 4–8 years. Classes naturally support children’s rhythm development and help them prepare for formal music lessons. Contact us today to try a free class and bring the joy of music into your family’s life.

Santa Cruz County Junior Golf
[email protected]
Established in 1993, the Santa Cruz County Junior Golf Association is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization, whose charter is to provide junior golfers between the ages of six and eighteen the opportunity to participate in an organized, safe, and fun golf program. SCJG is committed to minimizing barriers, financial or otherwise, that might prohibit participation in the game of golf.  The philosophy behind SCJG is to give junior players the opportunity to learn the rules and etiquette of golf, progress via clinics and lessons, and measure progress by tournament play.  Please visit us at to learn more.

Santa Cruz Gymnastics Center, Inc.
2750 B Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz
We at Santa Cruz Gymnastics Center understand how important physical movement is in developing a healthy brain in children. Healthy brain development leads to proficiency in learning and overall confidence to lead a successful life. Our gymnastics instructors take pride in offering gymnastics training packed with a lot of fun in every class! Each lesson offers a wide range of sensory integration activities through the usage of our gymnastics equipment on the floor, bars, balance beam, vault, trampolines, and foam pit. We offer a range of classes from preschool to competitive teams. Check our website to see what is available for your child today.

Santa Cruz Public Libraries
224 Church St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060
The Santa Cruz Public Libraries is a fun and safe place to gather after school, have some fun, and learn. We improve reading readiness with early literacy classes, family crafts, and Read-to-Me kits; We support Spanish speakers with family storytimes and STEAM projects; we support students with reading comprehension and homework tutoring, online resources for homework help, and project-based STEAM learning programs, including Javascript; we support educators and parents with Concierge Service and a biweekly newsletter. We support the learning needs of all ages with internet access, computers, printing, Wifi, and high-tech tools like 3D printers and virtual reality.

Teach Me French
[email protected]
I offer Customized French tutoring for elementary, middle school, high school students, homeschoolers and adults. Learning French can be one of the most rewarding educational opportunities. As a French native, I am passionate about teaching and sharing my language skills. I offer simple steps to understand grammar, pronunciation and build vocabulary to gain confidence in speaking.

Health and Well Being

Alison K. Jackson, DDS
Children’s Dentistry
7545 Soquel Dr, Aptos
We provide comprehensive dentistry in a caring environment for children of all ages. We are preventive-dentistry oriented and very thorough in our evaluations and consultations. We have a pediatric anesthesiologist on our premises and are able to treat special, challenging children safely and comfortably under a general anesthesia. We have a 24-hour emergency service available for all of our patients.

Dientes Community Dental Care
1830 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz
Dientes Community Dental Care is a full-service dental clinic located in mid-Santa Cruz County. We practice whole family dentistry including kids, adults, and seniors; but children hold a special place in our heart – half of our patients are kids seen by our experienced pediatric dentists. As a non-profit dental clinic, our focus is on high-quality, low-cost dental services, including exams, x-rays, fillings, sealants and root canals. We accept Medi-Cal and we have affordable sliding scale fees for uninsured patients. Dientes is open 6 days a week. We offer bi-lingual services – Se habla Español! Dientes, providing dignity through dentistry for nearly 30 years.

Encompass Community Services – Youth Substance Use & Prevention Counseling
With fewer outlets for fun and relaxation, this summer may be especially challenging for teens. If a teen in your life could benefit from substance use or prevention counseling, call Encompass Community Services. Our comprehensive services are FREE to all Santa Cruz County residents. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to receive professional support at absolutely no cost to you. Our experienced counselors offer group, individual and family sessions including telehealth and limited in-person services. 

Plaza Lane Optometry
1537 Pacific Ave, Suite 100
Santa Cruz CA 95060
(831) 429-2020
Did you know that 1 out of 4 school-age children suffers from some type of uncorrected vision problem? Children are often not able to recognize if they have blurry vision or are having trouble focusing since they do not know any differently. For this reason, Back-to-School eye exams are critically important for your child in order to make sure they are set up to succeed in the classroom. Some parents may rely on vision screenings but keep in mind that upwards of 75% of kids with vision problems are missed on these school screenings. Be proactive and make an appointment for your child’s healthy eye exam with one of our compassionate and knowledgeable Doctors of Optometry before heading back to the classroom this fall.

Ultraderm | California Skin Institute
3311 Mission Dr., Santa Cruz 95065
(831) 272-0936
There are many opinions on the internet about skincare and ingredients such as salicylic acid, antioxidants, benzoyl peroxide, or glycolic acid. Ultraderm | California Skin Institute is a premier dermatology practice in Santa Cruz helping teens with their acne, eczema, melasma, and more. Trust our board-certified dermatologists and specialists to take the guesswork out of your skincare routine and customize a treatment plan based on your skin type and needs. We are accepting new patients. Visit our website or call to make an appointment. 

GUiSC is not responsible for any errors or omissions, nor does inclusion in this listing constitute our endorsement of a program. Listings were written by each organization and GUiSC has not confirmed the accuracy of the information provided. Please call the individual program to confirm details.