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Santa Cruz County Schools (K-12)


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In this article, we summarize important information about public and private education in Santa Cruz as well as resources that you can use to analyze individual schools.



Santa Cruz County Public Education: 



According to the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, close to 40,500 students are enrolled in Santa Cruz County schools. Overall, the number of students in Santa Cruz County that are performing at an adequate level in the English Language Arts is 40-50%. In math, that number is 34% (measure using grade-dependent standards set by the state). Currently, 54.5% of students graduating from high schools in Santa Cruz County meet the requirements to attend a UC/CSU, which is higher than the state average of 45.5%.



The Official Way to determine the district of a given property:


  • Visit
  • Choose the city, type in your house number, and the first few letters of the street name
  • Press tab and choose the correct street
  • You will see a list of information about your property, including the assigned lower and high school districts.



For some schools, you can visit the district’s website to find your assigned schools. In other cases, you will need to call the district directly. Click Here for a list of important contacts in each school district in Santa Cruz County.



Bonny Doon Union Elementary, Happy Valley Union Elementary, Mountain Elementary & Pacific Elementary


Four of the 10 districts, Bonny Doon Union Elementary, Happy Valley Union Elementary, Mountain Elementary and Pacific Elementary are only kindergarten through the 6th grade. The typical succession of schools that your child will attend will be as follows:


  • Bonny Doon Union Elementary → Mission Hill Middle School → Santa Cruz High School
  • Happy Valley Elementary → Branciforte Middle School → Harbor High School
  • Mountain Elementary → New Brighton Middle School → Soquel High
  • Pacific Elementary → Mission Hill → Santa Cruz High


(be sure and check with your local district to confirm your student’s assigned schools)


The other 6 Districts vary, some being K-8, others K-12. You can find additional information about each district below:


Santa Cruz City School District


See all The Santa Cruz City school district includes numerous school at each grade level, all of which are listed here.


This is a map of the elementary school boundaries. You can also use this recourse to find which schools, elementary through high school, that your student will be assigned to.


Live Oak School District


The Live Oak School District includes the following schools from kindergarten through the 8th grade. It also has two charter schools, and one alternative education, Ocean Alternative, school which is setup to support homeschooling.


Students usually go to their “resident school” for elementary school which can be determined by calling the Live Oak School District. If there is no room at your resident school, your student will have to go to another school in the district.


All students will be assigned to the one middle school, Shoreline, from 6th through 8th grades.


Once a student reaches the 9th grade, they will typically attend Soquel or Harbor High. Here is a recourse that you can use to determine which school your student will be assigned to.


Pajaro Valley Unified School District


The Pajaro Valley Unified School District, the largest public school district in Northern California and includes schools from kindergarten through the 12th grade. This district is made up of the following schools. You can use this recourse to find out which schools your student will be assigned to at each educational level.


Scotts Valley Unified School District


The Scotts Valley Unified School District includes four school: two elementary schools, one middle and one upper school. The following lists the addresses that are included in this school district and this resource can be used to determine which elementary school you student will be assigned to.


Schools in this district are ranked as some of the highest performing public schools in Santa Cruz County.


San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District


The San Lorenzo Valley School District includes four schools: two elementary schools, one middle and one upper school. You can use this map to determine which elementary school your student would be assigned to, with Old Country Road and Love Creek Road serving as boundary delineators.


Any address in Boulder Creek is Boulder Creek elementary. The boundary for different elementary schools is in the center of Ben Lomond.


All students are then assigned to the one middle and high school.


This district also houses a charter school, SLVUSD Charter School. This school offers K–12 homeschooling, K–12 hybrid / homeschool options, and a 6th–8th grade five day a week program for families who prefer an individualized approach to education, combined with the support of school district resources.


Soquel Union Elementary


Soquel Union Elementary is comprised of three elementary schools, one Transitional Kindergarten school, and one middle school. Click here to see a list.


Are you wondering what a transitional kindergarten school is? The California Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 offers children not yet 5 years old when Kindergarten begins, whose birthdays fall between September and December, a preparation year (“Transitional Kindergarten”) using a developmentally appropriate curriculum designed to prepare them for a successful Kindergarten and school experience. You can read more about the Soquel Transitional Kindergarten school, The Opal Cliffs School, here.


This map is provided by the district, with the disclaimer that discrepancies may arise, and you should also contact the district to affirm that your child will be in the school represented here.



Determining School Ranking:


Once you’ve identified your school, you will want to know it’s quality and state ranking. In the past, each school was measured using the The Academic Performance Index (API). On March 15, 2017, the State Board of Education (SBE) and the California Department of Education (CDE) launched a new accountability system to replace the Academic Performance Index (API) to better measure our State’s educational goals. The metrics used to rate schools can now be found on the  California Dashboard and the  Five-by-Five Placement Reports. Use these tools to analyze the areas in which students within your assigned school are performing well and where they are in need of additional support.

In addition, you can read your district’s annual Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) to gain an understanding of the district’s overall vision for students, annual goals and specific actions the district will take to achieve the vision and goals. You can find your district’s plan here.

Independent websites such as use algorithms and public data to come up with a number-rating for schools on a scale of 1-10. While this rating-system appears to be less complex, these websites do not provide a comprehensive look at a given school’s strengths and weaknesses.



Charter Schools


Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice and are accountable to their sponsors. They are not restricted by many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools and are granted the right to operate for 3-5 years, after which they may renew. In Santa Cruz, close to 5,500 students were enrolled in charter schools in the 2015-16 school year.


There are some excellent charter schools in Santa Cruz (one of the best schools in the County is Pacific Collegiate Charter School). Admission to these schools is subject to chance, with most students being admitted through a lottery. However, certain factors can make admission more likely for a student. For example, at Pacific Collegiate Charter school, if a student has a sibling or working parent at the school, is the first to attend college in his/her family, or has a parent that is or was once on the Board of Directors, he or she has a higher likelihood of admission.


Most charter schools have a unique curriculum. Some specialize in the arts and others provide home-school support via online learning and in-person enrichment programs. If you think your child would benefit from an education at a Charter School, call the school directly for more information.



Private Schools


There are over 30 private lower, middle, and high schools in Santa Cruz County. The average acceptance rate is 82% and 47% of the schools are religiously affiliated. On average, the student/teacher ratio is 10:1. The average tuition for private elementary and high schools is $8,794-$24,040.


You can learn more about these private schools and read parent and teacher reviews here.


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