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.


Adventure 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
(831) 515-8369
Be Natural Music is a Jazz & Rock Music School based in Santa Cruz, with 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.

Boulder Creek Recreation & Park District/ Child Care Programs
13333 Middleton Ave. Boulder Creek
Little Explorers: start date: Monday August 15th, $40 per day, 8am-12pm, Ages: 18mo-4.5. TK Care: start date: Thursday August 11, $25 per day, 12:20pm-3:30pm. Kids Fun Day: start date: Thursday August 11th, $25 per day (Wednesday’s $40), location: Downtown Rec Center, 2:44pm-6pm. Reserve one of our facilities or parks online for an upcoming party, wedding or company meeting!

Mountain Music School
216-A Mt Hermon Rd, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
(831) 201-9605
Mountain Music School is celebrating its 5 year anniversary!! A huge Thank You to our community for all your support! Our staff provides lessons in piano, voice, guitar, ukulele, drums and bass, We continue to expand our offerings every year. Our students and their families enjoy an enthusiastic, lighthearted atmosphere brought by our qualified instructors. We welcome students of all ages, from toddlers to adults. Come begin or continue your musical journey with us!

Music Together/MusicalMe, Inc.
Locations throughout Santa Cruz and Santa Clara County
[email protected]
Our classes offer the very best in early childhood music learning for ages Birth to 5 years: 1. Music Together®: A music enrichment program for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, 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 musical & parenting toolbox. Siblings are welcome (sibling discount!), including infants who may attend free if they are 8 months or under. 2. Canta y Baila ConmigoTM: A unique curriculum for young children with dual, complementary goals of music education and Spanish 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. Contact us today to try a free class and bring the joy of music into your family’s life.

Pleasure Point Yoga
3603 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz
(831) 479-9642
Save the Date: Tweens & Teens After School Program coming in September! We are excited to offer movement arts to get embodied. We are offering diverse worlds with roots in Brazil, India, and Latin America. This will feature Capoeira and accompanying Drum, Percussion, & Song, Yoga, Mindfulness & Dance, and Trapeze Yoga.

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 encourage 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. Use code GUISC10 for 10% off any new subscription!

Thrive Learning Services
We help the student grow academically and THRIVE with reading intervention, writing, study skills, and help with homework. For students K-adult. All done by a credentialed teacher and reading specialist with over 20 years experience. Call today for a FREE telephone consultation.

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.


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 is a full-service dental provider located in Santa Cruz County. We practice whole family dentistry including kids, adults, and seniors; but children hold a special place in our heart – nearly half of our patients are kids seen by our two 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. Our main clinic is open 6 days a week. We offer bi-lingual services – Se habla Español! Dientes, providing dignity through dentistry for nearly 30 years.


coast redwoods montessori santa cruzCoast Redwoods Montessori
Lic #444403546
255B Mt. Hermon Rd., Scotts Valley
Coast Redwoods Montessori provides infant, toddler and preschool learning environments utilizing Montessori principles of education. Our curriculum includes language, math, science, culture, geography, courtesy, practical life, art and music. Our convenient location includes a 7000 square foot yard with a park quality climbing structure and garden. We offer programs for children 6 months through 6 years old.

Child Development Resource Center
Santa Cruz County Office of Education
400 Encinal Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Finding the right care for your child is one of the most important decisions your family can make. The Child Development Resource Center is the one-stop source for families seeking child care in Santa Cruz County. Our Child Care Referral Specialists can answer questions and connect you with licensed child care centers and licensed family child care homes to meet your family’s needs. We maintain the only up-to-date list of child care programs in Santa Cruz County and support our local child care providers. Contact us for a free referral and resources for finding child care.

Little Acorns Montessori
Lic #444413867
1215 Chanticleer Ave., Santa Cruz
Little Acorns Montessori provides a warm and caring environment, encouraging children to develop self-confidence and social and academic skills. We have a beautiful corner lot in Live Oak. Our Montessori trained teachers provide a unique, individualized learning program for children 6 months through 6 years old.

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 (8:45-11:45) and afternoon (12:45-3:45) preschool classes to approximately 100 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.

Quail Hollow Montessori
Lic #444408893
187 Laurel Dr., Felton
Voted Best preschool in San Lorenzo Valley, Quail Hollow Montessori offers an excellent, individualized learning experience for your child with a solid foundation in both academic and social skills in a beautiful, neighborhood setting. Our goal is to help children blossom into self-confident, compassionate, inquisitive, and respectful individuals with a life-long love of learning.

Rocking Horse Ranch
Lic #444400771
4134 Fairway Dr., Soquel
[email protected]
Rocking Horse Ranch is a play-based preschool located on 3 beautiful acres in sunny Soquel. We 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!


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 begins August 8. Scholarships are available. Find all the fall classes online –

International Student Services
Santa Cruz
[email protected]
International friendships between families enrich lives and bring cultural understanding. We are seeking host families for short-term Spring and Summer groups and for the High School Term & Semester. Students are from Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland.

Jim Booth Swim School
Santa Cruz at Harvey West Pool and
Watsonville at Duncan Holbert Pool
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

Luke’s Skate Lessons
Various Skate Parks
(831) 465-4609
[email protected]
Skate lessons aren’t only a way to improve your capabilities, but it’s also to find a community that will accept you for you! Our classes teach basic-advanced tricks, skatepark etiquette, safety equipment use, camaraderie, stretching techniques, life skills, and more! Sign up and start today!


Acton Academy Santa Cruz
Aptos Village
[email protected]
Acton Academy Santa Cruz is a unique, Socratic, learner-driven program for ages 7-18 that gives students agency over their own goals, and challenges them through collaborative, hands-on projects, experiences, and apprenticeships combined with the latest in educational technology. We help each student find their calling that can change the world!

Gateway School, K-8
255 Swift Street, Santa Cruz
831.423.0341 ext 302
[email protected]
Gateway School, founded in 1970 is an independent, co-ed day school in Santa Cruz for students in grades Kindergarten through 8th. Children’s innate curiosity and sense of wonder are nurtured daily through exploration, discovery, and hands-on experiences. Our graduates have an inquiring spirit, are confident, act with grace and courtesy, and stand up for those who need help. If you’d like to learn more, we invite you to visit our website or schedule a tour to experience all that Gateway has to offer!

Monte Vista Christian School
2 School Way, Watsonville, CA 95076
Nestled on a sprawling tree-lined campus, Monte Vista Christian School has been providing an unparalleled learning experience for nearly a century. MVC’s diverse student population and its low student-to-faculty ratio help create a close knit learning community that is equal parts rigorous and celebratory. MVC is committed to empowering learners in their academic excellence, community involvement, and global engagement. Learners at MVC gain a strong academic foundation, develop an understanding and appreciation for diverse cultures and views, and build lifelong friendships, all within an encouraging environment. We invite you to be a part of a school you can call home.

Mount Madonna School Preschool-12th grade
491 Summit Road, Watsonville
Mount Madonna School (MMS), with its beautiful, 375-acre forested campus, serves students preschool through high school. The fully accredited program features a Montessori-influenced preschool, an elementary and middle school, and a college-preparatory high school with UC-ready graduates. Mount Madonna nurtures students’ love of learning, sense of belonging and intellectual inquiry through small class sizes, experiential learning, Model United Nations for grades 4-12, life skills, advanced math and science classes, engineering, Spanish, visual and performing arts, and competitive athletics. MMS supports students in becoming kind, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity.

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.

Palma School
919 Iverson St. Salinas
[email protected]
Founded in 1951, Palma is a private, Catholic college-preparatory school for boys in grades six through twelve, owned and operated by The Christian Brothers Institute of California. With a rigorous curriculum that includes AP and Honors course offerings, award-winning programs in music and art, an athletic department that boasts scores of league titles and dozens of section championships, meaningful community service and annual missions, and a campus culture that fosters camaraderie and brotherhood, Palma predictably graduates steadfast young men of character who are ready to charge ahead in life. The positive peer experience leads to higher achievement and life-long friendships.

Santa Cruz Montessori
Ages 18 months – 14 years
Main Campus (Primary and Elementary)
6230 Soquel Drive, Aptos
Winston Campus (Young Children’s Community and Jr. High)
244 Cabrillo College Drive, Soquel
Established in 1964, Santa Cruz Montessori is a non-profit school serving children 18 months to 14 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.

Santa Cruz Waldorf School, PreK-8
2190 Empire Grade, Santa Cruz
[email protected]
Santa Cruz Waldorf School nurtures the whole human being in every individual, cultivating capacity of head, heart and hands. We offer a rich and balanced curriculum in which intellectual and artistic development are both vital and fully integrated. Specialty teachers work alongside class teachers to provide students with diverse experiences in language, movement, music, arts, games and gardening. Our magical, rural campus is nestled in the redwoods above USCS. Our community is warm and joyful. We are committed to protecting childhood, supporting each individual, respecting nature and all life. Santa Cruz Waldorf School cultivates self-directed, empathetic and free-thinking individuals with the courage and capacities to serve an ever-evolving humanity.

Spring Hill School
250 California Street, Santa Cruz

Celebrating our 45th year! Spring Hill School welcomes you to join our vibrant community and experience how we inspire a love of learning. Our approach empowers students to value their strengths and have the confidence to take risks. With curriculum tailored to meet the needs of each child, responsive teachers, and an inclusive environment, students thrive academically and socially at Spring Hill and beyond.  All students participate in art, Spanish, performance, gardening, music and our weekly all-school community building activities. Information on group tours, individual tours and virtual meet-and-greets can be found on our website. We look forward to meeting you!

Tara Redwood School
5810 Prescott Road, Soquel
Tel. 831.462.9632
[email protected]
Since 1989, Tara Redwood School 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 Tara’s signature pedagogy Creating Compassionate Cultures (CCC) and Montessori methodology academics. We offer a strong focus on global studies, sciences, hands on earth ecology studies, creative arts, social emotional learning and compassion in action. Preschool 2 – 5 years and Elementary ages 6–11. Classes are multi-age with a low student to teacher ratio. We provide small classroom spaces for our students and educators. Classes are situated both outdoor & indoor on 108 acres of lush forest.

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.