A K-12 Educational Independent Study — Homeschooling Alternative
By Edita McQuary
Who knew that among the myriad of schools in Santa Cruz County there is an alternative to the regular public schools? WASC-accredited Pacific Coast Charter School offers the best of both worlds – a “blended” or “hybrid” K-12 school option for parents and students looking for a different educational experience. It is one of eight alternative or charter schools in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.
Established in 1990, Pacific Coast Charter School has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the PVUSD to operate as a dependent charter school. Parents have the option of enrolling their children tuition-free in a home schooling, independent study, on-line learning educational environment with added enrichment classes and socialization activities. Since 1999 PCCS has been certified by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
There are many reasons why parents seek an alternative choice to regular daily classes. Some students are into competitive sports – one student is a BMX racer, last year there was a soccer player from Mexico – some have been musicians, dancers, or actors who travel during the school year and need the flexibility of homeschooling.
There are students who have progressed beyond the usual student workload and are dual- enrolled in Cabrillo College and PCCS. Except for student fees, the Cabrillo College courses are tuition-free. College preparatory UC “A-G” classes are also available at PCCS as a four year college alternative after graduation.
Kim Sweeney has been Principal at PCCS for almost two years. She was the School Improvement Coordinator for Pajaro Valley Unified School District before this and was an adjunct professor of Early Childhood Education at Cabrillo College for 14 years. Before that Kim ran a business in Scotts Valley called “KidzAcademy” and has supervised student teachers for San Jose State and taught Educational Psychology.
“Meeting kids and parents from all walks of life is a joy,” says Kim. “We are always looking for new ways to motivate and teach our students, helping them to become self-directed, lifelong learners.” The school currently has about 250 students and has a waiting list at some grade levels. Pacific Coast Charter School is able to enroll students throughout Santa Cruz County.
Besides standards-based curriculum and on-line learning, PCCS has a program for dyslexic readers to help them to learn to read, and encourages the use of supplemental resources accommodate its students.
K-8 Enrichment Workshops are offered two days afternoons per week and consist of core classes such as reading, writing, math, computers, art and tutorials led by credentialed teachers and guest artists. These classes also promote socialization and friendships among its students.
High school students have a schedule much like a college format, coming in 2-3 days per week, English for example can be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:40-10:10 a.m. There is an array of general and elective classes to choose from such as a ceramic art studio equipped with potter’s wheels in a room near the library.
Supervising teachers meet with students at least once a month to review and assess their work to be certain they are on track.
PCCS has two separate libraries, one for the K-5 students and a second, larger resource library equipped with computers, a large selection of books (for both Middle and High School students), and various media. Chrome books are available for students to use on-site.
All students have log-ins to use Google Drive and can share work with their teachers and peers. There is also a parent meeting room and a cafe located within the building, a bonus for parents waiting to pick up kids.
Parent Alyson Greatorex said, “During the first years that my boys attended PCCS, we considered ourselves to be homeschoolers because, after all, I taught them most of their lessons at home and it was a fulltime job, to raise young kids and teach them. But as the years went on, I didn’t feel right saying that we ‘homeschooled.’ PCCS became such a big part of our lives and helped us so much that I couldn’t take all the credit for their education.”
Alyson continued, “The boys attended workshops at PCCS two days a week and they went on school field trips about twice a month. After school, the kids would play for hours with their friends out on a big lawn in front of the school building. We made connections with great friends and families. Sometimes parents organized field trips, or extra classes, such as a parent-run music class. I also wanted to express how happy I am with PCCS because it fills a great niche in the community and it is a great model of a blended school.”
Former student Anabel Diaz said, “Pacific Coast Charter taught me a skill that I use every day: to be an independent thinker. I know how to ask good questions, and how to consider the quality of the sources I trust. They taught me to be a lifelong student, with an open, but critical mind.”
Pacific Coast Charter School is a unique blend of home, community and campus-based learning that gives K-12 students the opportunity to realize their potential through personalized educational plans which complement their diverse learning styles. PCCS promotes strong family and community relationships, academic achievement, independence, confidence, respect, responsibility, and self-directed learning.
Pacific Coast Charter School is located at 294 Green Valley Road, Watsonville, CA 95076, telephone 831.786.2180. www.pccs.pvusd.net.