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. This guide will help you find the right program for you.


All About Theatre
325 Washington St, Santa Cruz
Celebrating 20 years of theater, and over 160 productions in Santa Cruz County. Offering training in the performing arts for children aged (3-6), Youth (6-10), Pre-teen (10-13) & Teens (13-17) and Adults. Our upcoming Fall Season includes three musicals; Disney’s Frozen Jr., You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown and The Addams Family. We will also be offerings training and advancement classes in broadway dance, voice and more. There’s a role for everyone and everyone will leave with skills that they didn’t have when they arrived. We rehearse predominantly at our downtown Santa Cruz. Come be a part of the magic!

“My child has never been good at making friends. We’ve been looking for a safe space for them to connect with like-minded peers. This summer they participated in several camps with AAT, as well as a production. We are so grateful. They found that place and their community.”

Sara, All About Theatre parent

Cabrillo Youth Chorus
Directed by Cheryl Anderson, the Cabrillo Youth Chorus offers a comprehensive vocal music program for children 8-18, 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, and have performed in Carnegie Hall! Rehearsals take place weekly at Cabrillo College from 4:00-5:30pm; the beginning class meets on Tuesdays, and the intermediate/advanced class on Wednesdays. More information is available online at, or you can email [email protected].

Cabrillo Youth Strings
6500 Soquel Drive
VAPA5000 Music Building, Aptos
9-week String Orchestra Program, ages 6-18, begins September 8, with 3 groups: 1) 4th-6th Grade Beginning Strings, 2) Festival Strings (note-readers), 3) Cabrillo Strings (older students with intermediate to advanced levels, and good note reading skills). The program will end with a Concert November 3. For those interested in auditioning, please call (831) 479-6101 for audition materials. You may register on our website or Cabrillo Extension, 479-6331, before the first class. Our 5-Week Chamber Music Program will begin on November 10, concluding with a Recital on December 15. See website for full details, class times, and to register.

City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department
323 Church Street, Santa Cruz
Back-to-school is just around the corner and Santa Cruz Parks & Recreation is ready to round out your family’s activity schedule. This fall, we are excited to offer several fun, educational, and engaging classes for all ages. Fall registration begins online on August 14. Scholarships for qualifying households are available. Check out our fall lineup of classes and events at

Drawn 2 art Studios
19C Rancho Del Mar Shopping Center, Aptos
[email protected]
Drawn2Art is devoted to teaching skill-based fundamentals. Students, ages 4-12, teens and adults, begin by using drawing mediums, then move onto painting. Drawn2Art’s philosophy is “creativity follows mastery,” and that a strong foundation of artistic skills will enable students to eventually follow any artistic path they choose. Drawn2Art uses a step-by-step method to build skills. Beginning, intermediate and advanced students no longer experience boredom or frustration, as they are taught from individualized, written programs according to their personal abilities and proficiencies. Join Us for a Trial Art Class. Classes scheduled ahead of time, based on availability.

First 5 Santa Cruz County
First 5 Santa Cruz County promotes the healthy development of children from birth to age 5. Parents and caregivers of newborns can contact First 5 to receive a free “Kit for New Parents” with parenting videos, children’s books, information on caring for babies and local resources. First 5 also offers parenting support through the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, a world-renowned program that strengthens families by building positive relationships. To find Triple P classes or quick tips, visit or

International Academy of Dance
320 Encinal Street, Santa Cruz
[email protected]
Dance For JOY! Classical Ballet – Lyrical – Jazz – Tap – Hip-Hop – Acro ~ Ages 2-Adult Providing world class instruction in an encouraging and supportive community ~ Inspiring students of all ages to develop a lifelong love of dance ~ Honing each individuals artistry, technique, focus and musicality ~ Finding balance, agility, strength and flexibility in dance and in life ~ Generating energy and growth ~ Bringing joy to every class and performance! Determination. Discipline. Perseverance. Resilience. Passion. Come to every class…because you love it! We can’t wait to see you in the studio and on stage!

Jim Booth Swim School
Watsonville indoor pool and coming soon to Toadal fitness
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 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. Soon offering a non-competitive swim team to help develop strength, endurance & technique. 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, and learn FUNdamental motor skills. Besides classes for ages crawling-8 yrs old, we also offer birthday parties, Parents Night Out, Open Gyms and camps. Come join the Fun.

Mon Ami Art Studios
245 Sea Ridge Rd, Aptos
Mon Ami Art Studios, as found in the name, is friendly to all; the growing young artists and the more experienced can find an environment where celebrating one’s own creativity is the priority and will be nurtured. For the child artists, creating a foundation of play and exploratory approach to creativity is supported, each at their own pace and their development. Fall classes are open for enrollment. Check out our fall sessions on our website

MusicalMe, Inc. offering Music Together™
All over Santa Clara & Santa Cruz Counties

Join us for the very best in early childhood enrichment: Music Together. Our award-winning classes are playful, rich, and engaging. They help young children —babies, toddlers, and preschoolers—discover their inner music-maker by playing with the grownups they love. A musical life begins at home – we’ll teach you why and how. Offered in Aptos, Felton, Santa Cruz & Scotts Valley.

Santa Cruz Gymnastics Center, Inc.
2750 B Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz
Celebrating 50 years in business, Santa Cruz Gymnastics nurtures children’s exploration of movement, fostering well-rounded development through the synergy of physical and cognitive growth. Our carefully designed classes build strength, flexibility, problem-solving skills, and focus, laying the foundation for future success. From soaring into the foam pit to swinging on the bars, our cutting-edge facility offers thrilling activities that keep kids engaged and eager to learn. With classes for all ages and skill levels, our expert instructors provide personalized attention to help children reach their full potential. Witness your child embrace the joy of gymnastics and unlock their true potential. Join the Santa Cruz Gymnastics family today! Visit our website for the perfect class.

SC Publuc LibrariesSanta Cruz Public Libraries (SCPL)
Boulder Creek: 13390 West Park Ave,
Boulder Creek
Branciforte: 230 Gault St, Santa Cruz
Capitola: 2005 Wharf Rd, Capitola
Downtown: 224 Church St, Santa Cruz
Felton: 6121 Gushee St, Felton
Garfield Park: 705 Woodrow Ave,
Santa Cruz
La Selva Beach: 316 Estrella Ave,
La Selva Beach
Live Oak: 2380 Portola Dr, Santa Cruz
Scotts Valley: 251 Kings Valley Rd,
Scotts Valley
Santa Cruz Public Libraries (SCPL) is your partner for student success. SCPL provides on-line and in-person educational resources and K-12 homework help. Students can access research databases, take practice tests, check out a laptop or tablet, or join one of our programs (like chess club or the diverse youth meetup). SCPL also provides early literacy resources and educational programs for toddlers and young children. Find a book to share with your child, stop by for a storytime, or check out one of the online resources. Visit and follow us on social media @santacruzpl.

Seven Directions Creative Learning Center
[email protected]
Seven Directions is Santa Cruz’s premiere creative center for kids and teens! Offering instruction in various arts, sciences and more in a lively studio with over 30 live exotic animals, we are committed to helping to nurture students’ self esteem, building lasting friendships and empowering them as artists, learners and creative thinkers.


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
1500 Capitola Road, Santa Cruz
100 Pioneer Street, Suite D, Santa Cruz
1430 Freedom Blvd., Suite C, Watsonville

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 experienced pediatric dentists. As a non-profit dental provider, 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. We offer bi-lingual services – Se habla Español! Dientes, providing dignity through dentistry for over 30 years.


Community Bridges Early Education Division
Community-Based Universal

Preschool Programs:
• Fairgrounds: 2667 East Lake Avenue, Watsonville
• Vista Verde: 1936 Freedom Boulevard, Freedom
• Sycamore Street: 121 Sycamore Street, Santa Cruz
• Nuevo Dia: 135 Leibrandt Avenue, Santa Cruz
• Redwood Mountain: 7103 Highway 9, Felton
• Highlands Park: 8500 Highway 9, Ben Lomond
Providing FREE (California State Preschool Program) & tuition-based early education, from the redwood mountains in the San Lorenzo Valley to the vibrant fields of Watsonville. We serve infants through TK with the guidance of highly experienced, bilingual/bicultural staff who understand the importance of play and social-emotional learning as the key foundation for academic success and ignite a love of lifelong learning. We honor the rich cultural backgrounds that have given Santa Cruz County its historical place as a change-making community, with core values to provide access to quality early care and learning to create empowered futures. Together we’re better.

“They are helping my daughter with her growth and development.
She is always learning new things.”

Community Bridges Early Education Division Parent

Freedom Schoolhouse and Farm
Freedom Schoolhouse and Farm offers a unique program in a beautiful setting. Our curriculum is emergent with a strong emphasis on creating a connection to the natural world. We seek to promote and maintain basic principles of Freedom, with the goal of educating our children to be critical thinkers. Our open classroom creates a warm environment, and we encourage freedom of choice and relationship building. Set on several acres, every day is filled with the beauty of nature, joys of friendship, and fun activities geared toward artistic expression, physical movement, and the development of a lifelong love of learning

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 learning. Our graduates have an inquiring spirit, are confident, act with grace and self-possession, and flourish in challenging academic settings. 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!

Kirby School
425 Encinal Street, Santa Cruz
[email protected]
Kirby School is dedicated to nurturing academic excellence and personal growth in each student. With a legacy spanning 30 years, Kirby offers a vibrant and inclusive learning environment for curious and motivated students. Our dedicated faculty and staff make a lasting impact–steadfastly empowering students to explore their passions and design fulfilling lives. Our graduates are poised to prosper in a world that is increasingly complex and dynamic.

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
Extended Learning)
The Live Oak School District- Child Development Program offers families a Free or Low Cost 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. NEW this year, we are offering a Full Day & year round program (7:30-4:30pm). 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 Preschool-12th grade
491 Summit Road, Watsonville
Mount Madonna School (MMS) provides preschool through grade 12 education emphasizing students’ academic success, creativity and college preparation. 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’ curiosity and love of learning, sense of belonging and intellectual inquiry through small class sizes, experiential learning, advanced math, engineering and science curriculum, Spanish, visual and performing arts, and competitive athletics. MMS supports its students in becoming kind, self-aware, and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared for 21st-century success and can 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.

Rocking Horse Ranch Preschool
Lic #444400117
4134 Fairway Dr, Soquel
We offer morning, afternoon, and full-day sessions. Our three beautiful acres offer room to explore, including swings, slides, trees to climb, a ninja course, a zipline, a bike track, and a giant sandbox! Kids also enjoy our farm animals and grazing on food from our organic garden and orchards.

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.

Santa Cruz City Schools
Sam Rolens
[email protected]
At Santa Cruz City Schools, students find belonging, room to explore & high expectations. In Transitional Kindergarten & Kindergarten, students are welcomed into education with a play-centric, curiosity-driven experience. In Elementary, students learn in classrooms, gardens, kitchens, art studios, and in the field–and in our after-school enrichment programs. In Middle School, we encourage independence and emotional development as students push themselves academically. In High School, we provide countless opportunities: more AP classes, more athletics, more artistic and performance outlets, more leadership opportunities, more community connections and more supports to launch students into their next adventure in college or career excellence.

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 the 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.

simcha preschoolSimcha Preschool
Lic #440710119
3055 Porter Gulch Road, Aptos
[email protected]
Come experience our thriving, nurturing, play-based program that features an emergent, anti-bias curriculum tailored to your children’s passions and interests! Simcha (meaning “joy” in Hebrew) Preschool is known for its dedicated and knowledgeable teachers who foster children’s social emotional skills, independence, and creative ideas. Everyone loves our beautiful outdoor and indoor facilities. Thank you for voting us Best Preschool Runner Up in 2023! Full-day and half-day schedules, low child/teacher ratios, and 3, 4 or 5-day schedules are offered for children ages 2-5. Welcoming to all, we are proud of our over 40-year tradition of sharing Jewish values. Come join our Simcha Preschool family! Open year-round, 7:30am-5:20pm. Call 831.479.3449 or email Director Caitlin Clancy at [email protected] to learn more!

Tara Redwood School
5810 Prescott Road, Soquel
[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.