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

Gateway School, K-8
255 Swift Street, Santa Cruz
831.423.0341 ext 302
The Learning Continues – 2020 marks an important milestone in Gateway’s history – 50 years of providing families with an exceptional educational experience. Students and alumni proudly embody the school’s values and inspire future generations as Gateway embarks on its next 50 years. Gateway School is a 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 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.

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.

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.

Mount Madonna School
Pre/K-12th grade
491 Summit Road, Mount Madonna
For 2020-21, MMS features small class sizes and outdoor classrooms, with on-campus and remote learning options. MMS strives to prepare well-rounded human beings who get into and succeed in college, learn to value collaboration, form meaningful relationships and engage with their local communities, nation and the world. The CAIS and WASC-accredited program features a Montessori-influenced Pre/K program, a 375-acre campus, science and technology labs, life skills, marine biology, oceanography, athletics, and visual and performing arts. Since 1979, students preschool through grade 12 have received an education based on academic excellence, positive character development and creative self-expression, and where each person is supported in becoming a caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinker, who is prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity.

Rocking Horse Ranch Preschool
Lic #444400117
4134 Fairway Dr, Soquel
Rocking Horse Ranch is a play-based preschool located on 3 beautiful acres in sunny Soquel. We are open from 9-5:30 and offer morning, afternoon, and full day sessions. Our outdoor space offers lots of room to explore, including our gardens and many different kinds of animals. Come visit us!

Rose Blossom Nursery School
Preschool, T-K, Kindergarten
Lic #444403616
6401 Freedom Blvd, Aptos
Register now for Summer and Fall 2020. For boys and girls starting at 2.5 years old. Register by the week or the month for the Summer Fun Program, Aug. 3 – Aug. 28. School year starts Tuesday, Sept. 8th. Fun and loving environment. Play-based and emergent curriculum. Individualized instruction, age-appropriate activities, circle time, and free play. Rose Blossom is a compassion-based school. Beautiful, country setting in Aptos. See website for intro video, and link to Facebook page.SharonRose, director email:[email protected]

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.

Tara Redwood School
Elementary Campus
4746 Soquel Drive, Soquel
Preschool Campus
5810 Prescott Road, Soquel
Tara Redwood School will open its doors for Fall 2020. We are in close contact with CDCregulations and we are very grateful to be able to offer small size outdoor & indoor classroom spaces for our students and educators. Since 1989, Tara Redwood has been empowering children to make a positive difference in the world by educating the heart & mind with mindfulness practices. Our curriculum is an integration of Creating Compassionate Cultures (CCC) and a strong focus on global studies, sciences, nature, creative arts, social emotional learning and compassion in action.Preschoolfor ages 2 – 5 years andElementaryfor children ages 6–11. Classes are multi-age with low student – teacher ratio. Learn more

VHM Christian School
427 Capitola Rd Ext., Santa Cruz, CA 95062
VHM Christian School provides K-8 Christian Education for families in the Santa Cruz area. Students’ safety is paramount. Planning consistently with California State’s document “Stronger Together,” our goal is to re-open in-person classes on August 19th. 12 students per teacher will form stable groups. Limited spaces still available. Contact:[email protected]

After School Activities

Adventure Sports Unlimited
303 Potrero Street, #15, Santa Cruz
Adventure Sports Unlimited (ASU) is Santa Cruz’s premier swim school. We teach infants through adults the joys of water and adventure. Our Ocean programs introduce families to our magnificent marine environments through the Big Sur Camping Trip and Kelp Pickling Class. We explore the world-renown underwater landscape of Monterey Bay through our Open Water Scuba courses. It all starts in our custom-built aquatics facility with our tropically heated pool. We want to make your entry into the water world truly enjoyable. ASU – Come Play With Us!

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.

Distant Learners LLC



[email protected]

We are an in-person, socially distanced, distance learning facilitation, and classwork support program that also includes daily social group activities. Leaders are assisting students in the completion of their classwork and homework, as well as preparing for their day with their virtual classroom. This program allows for the social factor of school with acknowledging social distancing. It’s easy to get lost in the craziness of it all and we are here to help students succeed while having fun! Space is limited. Call or email to schedule a time to check us out!

Exploring New Horizons
 [email protected]
Exploring New Horizons’ Outdoor Day Camp engages stable groups of up to 12 K-5 children in nature exploration, writing, art, mapping, and imaginary play. Programs will take place M/W & T/TH from 12-5 pm ($70/child/day). Parents drop off children at locations within 20 minutes of Santa Cruz (Seabright Beach, Natural Bridges, Wilder Ranch, etc.). All state and county guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are implemented. The fall program will run Sept. 14 – Nov. 20. Founded as a nonprofit in 1979, ENH engages over 7,000 students annually in outdoor education.

Guitar Lessons with Nathan Bessara
[email protected]
Nathan is trained in classical guitar and will teach your child the foundation techniques to becoming an excellent musician. His personality is encouraging and your child will enjoy their experience as they learn to play the guitar. Nathan is available via Zoom during shelter in place.

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.

Kumon of Santa Cruz
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.

Music Together, Canta y Baila Conmigo, and Rhythm Kids w/MusicalMe, Inc.
Locations throughout Santa Cruz and Santa Clara County
Our online classes offer the best in early childhood music learning for ages Birth to 8 years. Music Together®: A music program for children birth to age 6—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 6 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 Soccer Camp
Santa Cruz Soccer Camp has witnessed over 30 years of making sport fun, entertaining, and empowering for boys and girls ages-5-15. At this camp, they are taught by skillful educators, who have graduated in Leadership Development ages 13-15 and have participated as young campers immersed in the philosophy of
Making Soccer Fun.

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 and trampolines. We offer a range of classes from preschool to competitive teams. Check our website to see what is available for your child today.

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. I can teach at any level. I offer virtual private lessons.

Wonderland Toys & Classroom Resources
(831) 316-7261
[email protected]
Shop local for all your (home)school needs this school year! At Wonderland we believe in the wonder and magic of childhood. We take pride in supporting our local community with quality materials for teaching and raising children. We carry school supplies, educational, high-quality specialty toys, games, puzzles, books, science kits, art sets, math manipulatives, workbooks, construction toys, infant/toddler items and much, much more. As moms and educators here in Santa Cruz, Theresa and Hannah saw a need for a local store that pairs excellent customer service with quality, age-appropriate learning toys and classroom resources for this community… and in 2015, Wonderland was born! Come wonder, play and learn with us at our NEW location in the Rancho Del Mar Shopping center… right next to the Safeway off State Park in Aptos!

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
(near Marshalls); 31.464.5409
302 Riverside Avenue, Santa Cruz
(near the Boardwalk); 831.464.5411
1430 Freedom Blvd, Suite C, Watsonville
(near Cardenas); 831.621.2560
Dientes Community Dental Care is a full-service dental clinic with offices in Santa Cruz and Watsonville. 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. In our Santa Cruz clinic, we have a dedicated pediatric wing where Dientes’ dentists excel at making parents and children comfortable and offering preventive education with each visit. 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 have affordable rates for uninsured patients. We offer bi-lingual services – Se habla Español!

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.