Many factors can enter into the evaluation and selection of a school for your child: academics, so-called non-academics, teaching philosophy, social environment, level of parental involvement, funding, values, unique programs, teacher/student ratio, physical education program. The importance of each varies from family to family and with each child and may involve prioritization. Is a fine arts program offered? Are computers readily available? Are children encouraged to set goals? Will the school provide for my child’s interests as well as offer new interests?
The Annual Schools Guide provides contact phone numbers for you to request additional information, ask questions and arrange for a meeting or tour. Be sure to ask about open houses–and check our calendar each month in print and online–they are an excellent opportunity to view the entire facility, meet staff members and chat with parents of children already attending the school.
Whether you are enrolling your child in a Santa Cruz community school for the first time or seeking a new setting for a child whose needs or interests have changed, the process of finding the right school for your child is challenging and time-consuming and can also be a fascinating and exciting learning experience.
Alternative Family Education “AFE”
840 North Branciforte, Santa Cruz
Community. Autonomy. Support. Collaboration. Alternative Family Education (AFE) is a vibrant homeschool community. We are a free public K-12 program with daily enrichment classes, clubs, sports, and arts. Come see how you can create an individualized learning experience with your child in this inclusive community! Learn more at our info nights: 2/6 or 3/11 6:30-7:30pm at AFE.
2511 Numa Watson Road, Seaside
Chartwell School, located on 60 acres in Seaside, CA, serves students with dyslexia and associated 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.
“For us, Chartwell represents unlimited possibilities. It no longer feels like our son’s story will be about constant struggle, but about his journey to reach his full potential.” – Chartwell parent
Coastal Community Preschool
Lic. #444408854 & Lic.#444415615
900 High Street, Santa Cruz
Coastal Community Preschool (CCP) serves children ages 2.3 years through 5 years with a safe, stimulating, and caring learning atmosphere. We have a curriculum that encourages development at each child’s own pace. Among our program highlights, we offer flexible year-round schedules, a highly experienced teaching staff, and a bright, secure West side location overlooking Monterey Bay. We also offer an after-school program for TK-1st grade. Join us as we continue working with parents and caregivers to raise a community of strong, confident and happy children.
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 provides students in grades Kindergarten through Middle School with an exemplary education. Small class sizes and programs in Art and Technology, Music, Spanish, and Life Lab Science complement an academic curriculum grounded in Social Emotional Learning. Gateway students are collaborative, creative, love learning, and become compassionate and responsible citizens. Children’s innate curiosity and sense of wonder are nurtured through exploration, discovery, and hands-on experiences. Our graduates have an inquiring spirit, are confident, and stand up for those who need help. To learn more about the difference a K-8 school model provides, visit www.gatewaysc.org and schedule a tour to experience all that Gateway has to offer!
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.
“The middle and high school years are when kids decide who and what they want to be. Kirby helps students become the best version of themselves by celebrating and respecting that journey.” – Kirby parent
Moreland Notre Dame School, TK-8
133 Brennan Street, Watsonville
Moreland Notre Dame School is a TK through 8th grade Catholic School founded in 1899 by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. We are a school community committed to providing quality academic preparedness while educating students for life. MND seeks to express the goodness of God by fostering a sense of family, a safe environment where each child is treated as sacred, justice and service to others is expected, and diversity is welcomed and celebrated. Located in the heart of Watsonville, Moreland Notre Dame has been educating students for life for over 120 years.
Mount Madonna School
491 Summit Road, Mount Madonna
In their classrooms and beyond, Mount Madonna School students are part of a diverse, inspired, creative, and academically vibrant learning community. We strive to prepare well-rounded human beings for college and beyond, who value collaboration, form meaningful relationships and engage with their local communities, nation, and the world. Imagine ONE school, where your preschooler can move through to kindergarten and elementary, be part of a close-knit middle school community, and graduate from high school! Featuring Montessori-influenced preschool and kindergarten programs, environmental education, performing and visual arts, life skills, and excellent academics. Transportation available, with bus stops throughout Santa Cruz County.
“Mount Madonna School helped me raise my child to be a well-rounded, academically strong, compassionate human, while surrounding him with a community of the same.” -Robyn Pearson, alumni parent
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, Lab-Based Science Curriculum, Art, Music, Physical Theater/Circus Arts, Electives, Ceramics, Archery, Swimming, Leadership, Field Trips, Drama Productions, and more.
Pacific Elementary School
50 Ocean Street, Davenport
Pacific Elementary School in Davenport is a public school serving ~160 students. Families throughout the county choose us for our: High-Quality Preschool; Traditional TK-6 Classrooms; Full-Time TK-6 Home Study Program with optional online classes; Hybrid TK-6 Independent Study Program with 3 classroom days and home study days each week. Students participate in our award-winning garden and lunch programs in which students grow, cook, study, and eat healthy food. We emphasize experiential learning, including FOSS science, field trips, media literacy, film-making, and drama. We offer a gifted and talented education?(GATE) program and accelerated math. To express interest, visit: pacificesd.org/new-family-enrollment.html
For more than 40 years, Salesian Elementary and Junior High has been “Empowering Youth with Knowledge, Faith, and Love!” Located five miles from Highway 1, our beautiful hillside campus has the spirit of a home where every child feels loved. Rooted in the Catholic faith, we are a school that celebrates childhood, fosters a passion for learning, and develops moral depth through acts of service. Credentialed teachers and staff educate the whole child with a balanced curriculum. Our 50-acre campus also provides endless opportunities for students to learn from the natural environment. Personal tours are also available! For more information: [email protected]
Santa Catalina School
1500 Mark Thomas Drive, Monterey
Set against the scenic California coast in Monterey, Santa Catalina School is where you can discover the true you. Our boarding and day school, for girls in grades 9 through 12, is where inspired, powerful, active learning happens—in the classroom, on the field or the stage, and in the dorms. Catalina girls take ownership of their academics—including a marine ecology program that takes advantage of Monterey Bay—and they pursue their passions. True sisterhood creates a community that is fueled by curiosity, kindness, and confidence.
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 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 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.
SLVUSD Charter School
325 Marion Ave, Ben Lomond
Since 1993, San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District’s SLV Charter School has offered a range of programs that support a variety of learners. Active learning, parent involvement, and student voice are key components of our programs. In addition to supporting all academic areas, charter programs foster student creativity, social-emotional development, and the pursuit of individual student passions. Built on a foundation of strong ongoing teacher, student, and parent collaboration, SLV Charter boasts a wide variety of program structures including: Nature Academy’s 5-day week program (6-8), five 2-4 day a week homeschool-hybrid programs (TK-12), and an independent studies program (TK-12).
Spring Hill School
250 California Street, Santa Cruz
Spring Hill School inspires curiosity and a love of learning by creating a supportive and welcoming school experience. Knowing that academic learning goes hand in hand with social emotional growth, our approach develops inner confidence and encourages a willingness to take risks. With our small class sizes, each teacher comes to know each student, and we can prioritize effective communication with families. Students leave Spring Hill with a strong preparation for middle school and beyond. With a focus on developing tools to take on the world, a Spring Hill experience is designed to last a lifetime.
Since 1989, Tara Redwood School has offered children a strong academic foundation, rich in the sciences, emotional intelligence, and the arts. Our global curriculum is a blend of Montessori and Creating Compassionate Cultures (CCC), a framework known as the 7 Steps to Knowledge, Strength and Compassion. The CCC pedagogy provides a unique approach that nurtures the children’s innate positive qualities through critical thinking and contemplative practices, empowering them to have a positive impact on the world through their thoughts and actions. Our integrated approach to learning has a strong focus on environmental studies and exploration of the natural world. Our classrooms extend into the outdoors on a playground that is 108 acres of redwood forest and creeks in Soquel. Elementary ages TK–6th. Preschool ages 2–4 years.
VHM Christian School
427 Capitola Road Ext. Santa Cruz
VHM Christian School offers Kindergarten to 8th grade. We offer a small student-teacher ratio, extracurricular activities, sports, fun field trips, and a nurturing environment with Christian values. We have an Open House on March 3. Feel free to call to schedule a tour.
9-week String Orchestra Spring session begins January 26, on Friday afternoons, for students 6-18. Offering 3 groups: Beginning, Festival Strings, and Cabrillo Strings. Visit website for full details, class times, and to register by January12. Also offering 5-week Chamber Music Program, for students with good note-reading skills, April 12– May 10.
Jim Booth Swim School
Harvey West pool in Santa Cruz and Watsonville
Be a water wonder! Lessons for all ages! 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 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!
Do you know a middle school student interested in learning about and exploring nature? The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History invites 6th-8th graders to join Nature Club! Nature Club takes young explorers into local habitats to learn about the amazing living world around us while making discoveries along the way. Programs are led by Museum staff with kids dropped off at different locations, including local parks, open spaces, and of course at the Museum! Exploration and activities help kids learn more about nature through observation and experience while developing a deeper connection to nature and making new friends.
“I love it, there aren’t any programs about nature for kids my age.” – 6th grade Nature Club participant
Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation
Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation is excited to provide fun, educational, and active classes for all ages all year round! Scholarships are available. Find our seasonal Activity Guide online – www.cityofsantacruz.com/register.
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.