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In the Spirit of Achievement to Fuel a Child’s Success

From preschool to high school graduation, education is key to a child’s current and future development. North County San Diego is home to some of the best public and private schools in the state, with programs available to suit any learning style. ZCode Magazines’ Private School Guide 2019 highlights educational opportunities in our backyard.

The Grauer School

by LINDA FRABL | photos by Alan Smith Photography and provided by The Grauer School

ps_grauerlogoIf you have a middle or high school-aged child who wants to go beyond the regimented educational system and is seeking greater connection with teachers, with peers, and with the whole learning experience, do not despair. The Grauer School in Encinitas, which happens to be the longest-serving independent school in San Diego’s North County, is a solution. Its stated philosophy reads as such: “More than just a curriculum, real teaching is the deepening relationship between teacher and student.”


ps_grauer2Established in 1991, Grauer claims to be the worldwide leader in the “small schools movement.” The school’s founder, Dr. Stuart Grauer, noted, “We have traveled far and wide studying the world’s most inspirational schools, educators, and educational movements: Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, Socratic, free and democratic schooling, expeditionary learning and classical education, from one-room schoolhouses to Peking University. We support all these great movements and traditions which have provided us with heroes, mentors, and wisdom.”

Grauer Principal Dana Abplanalp-Diggs added, “The Grauer School uses the foundations of these great traditions to infuse all that we keep learning and synthesizing. With the freedom to make choices in their education, our students are discovering their passions and becoming courageous, curious leaders. And even though our focus is not on rankings and test scores, our students are getting accepted to and are succeeding at their top choice colleges.”


“At Grauer, no student goes unnoticed – all our proud of themselves, all are encouraged and rewarded for finding their voice and their place in the world. They’re adventuresome. They’re happy!” ~ Julie D., 11th Grade Parent

ps_grauer3Engaging students in six core values – resourcefulness, intellectual curiosity, perseverance, compassion, self-advocacy, and accountability – The Grauer School aims to develop well-rounded students who are purposeful, confident global citizens. The learning curriculum involves field trips, guest speakers, community service activities, and student-created programs, all of which serve to complement the required subject matters and stimulate young minds. Grauer is also the region’s only UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) affiliate school, with 176 partner schools around the world, all while gaining unbeatable college placement: 96% of top three college picks and averaging $50-60,000 in merit scholarship offers for graduating seniors.

Emphasizing the concept of students taking ownership over their learning, Dana exclaimed, “In a world that often seems to put ‘standards’ before personal development, and to put institutional needs above human needs, Grauer keeps the focus on the individual student. Our students achieve and are valued because they are developing personal passions, and teens coming of age are finding their unique voices at Grauer.”

1500 S. El Camino Real
Encinitas, CA 92024

Head of School: Dr. Stuart Grauer, Ed.
Principal: Dana Abplanalp-Diggs, M. Ed.
Established: 1991
Open House: Discover Grauer tours on Jan. 10, 16, 25, or Feb. 8, 9:00 – 10:15 a.m.

Grades: 7–12, Co-Ed
Enrollment: 160
Student/Teacher: 6:1 optimal class/seminar size is 12
Tuition: Financial aid offered
About the School: The Grauer School, an independent college preparatory school, serves Northern San Diego and surrounding areas, offers a balanced curriculum of rigorous academics, arts and athletics, and gives students unparalleled leadership opportunities in a supportive, socially inclusive environment.

Cathedral Catholic High School

by LAINEY KRAL | photos provided by Cathedral Catholic High School

ps_cathedrallogoCathedral Catholic High School’s (CCHS) core values of faith, knowledge, character, and responsibility have guided the development of high-achieving, well-rounded leaders for over 60 years. The CCHS legacy has deep roots, though the name is only 13 years old. Cathedral Girls High School merged with University San Diego High School (UNI) in 1970 on UNI’s Linda Vista Campus. UNI transitioned to the current CCHS Campus in Carmel Valley in 2005 and took on the new name of Cathedral Catholic High School. “No matter what campus you were on, once you become a Don, you’re always a Don,” said CCHS President Mr. Stevan Laaperi. “The Dons’ legacy has never been stronger. Over 50 alumni are among the CCHS team of administrators, faculty, coaches, and staff.”

2018 Open Division CIF Champions

2018 Open Division CIF Champions

ps_cathedral3The professional staff is well qualified to uphold that legacy. Most teachers have a master’s degree or higher in the subject they teach, and the entire staff strives to model the values of a Catholic faith community. The school is accredited by the Western Catholic Educational Association and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and holds membership with the College Board. “In partnership with parents, we form an educational ministry that is mutually supportive and a community committed to excellence,” said Principal Dr. Kevin Calkins. “It is our intent that our graduates carry a spirit of intellectual curiosity and a love of learning on their continuing journey of personal and spiritual growth.”


“It is our intent that our graduates carry a spirit of intellectual curiosity and a love of learning on their continuing journey of personal and spiritual growth.”

ps_cathedral2Over 1,600 students are currently beginning that journey on the dynamic CCHS campus. Facilities include 75 classrooms, 12 science labs, two computer labs, engineering complex (which will be finished January 2019), a ceramics studio, a music room, a lecture hall, several special-use classrooms, world-class athletic facilities, an academic center, a chapel, and meditation garden – there’s a place for every student to discover their passion. Over 70 percent of CCHS students participate in one or more of the school’s 80-plus teams.

“Whether you are an athlete, love to act, or have a passion for serving others, at Cathedral Catholic you gain the confidence to make a difference not only in your life but in the world around you,” said Kate, a graduate from the Class of 2017. Nicole, another recent graduate, agreed: “There is an unparalleled wealth of opportunities, and a strong support system in the students and faculty as part of the Catholic community.”

5555 Del Mar Heights Rd.
San Diego, CA 92130

President: Mr. Stevan Laaperi
Principal: Dr. Kevin Calkins
Established: University of San Diego High School established in 1957, moved to its new location as Cathedral Catholic High School in 2005

Grades: 9-12, Co-Ed
Enrollment: 1,650
Student/Teacher: 18:1
Tuition: $17,900
About the School: Cathedral Catholic High School is an innovative leader in Catholic, college preparatory education. Their rigorous, innovative education program is offered in a nurturing community based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and traditions of the Catholic Church.

Therapeutic Learning Center

by BECCA BARR | photos by Soul of Photography

ps_tlclogoParents with children that are struggling in school may want to consider the Therapeutic Learning Center (TLC) as a short-term investment. Since its inception in 2012, TLC has a mission to FIX learning challenges and disabilities so that students can thrive in any classroom environment with confidence and joy in learning.

The program was originally called Therapeutic Literacy Center, but has recently changed its name to better represent the breadth and scope of learning skills TLC focuses on. Located in Solana Beach, TLC’s clinicians provide cognitive therapies for children and adults along with a private school option with academic classes for students in 1st through 12th grades.


“We provide individual educational services with specialized cognitive therapy meant to FIX or erase of all kinds of learning difficulties and identified disabilities. After a relatively short period of time at TLC, students transition back to their traditional schools as successful and independent learners,” said school principal Maria Bagby.

ps_tlc2Individual services are designed to FIX their learning problems, so that students can independently move forward on an even playing field without the need for accommodations and extra support.

“These kids are smart, but struggling. They don’t need us to ‘teach to their strengths’ as we’ve all been told. They need us to strengthen their weaknesses so that learning comes easily in any environment,” Maria explained.

Maria herself is a reading specialist and works closely with a network of professionals including educational psychologists, audiologists, MFTs, psychologists, and occupational therapists. The team is dedicated to identifying and fixing the CAUSE of problems rather than focusing on symptoms that come along with frustration and difficulties in attention, motivation, and organization. Some of these symptoms come with labels such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), Nonspecific Learning Disabilities, Other Health Impairments, and more. Others have no label at all.

“TLC opened doors of possibilities for my child’s future… in school and in life!” – Mother of a TLC student


TLC is ideal for kids who are struggling in a typical school environment. The school focuses on the science of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change both its physical structure and its functional organization in response to training and experience. For many students, TLC clinicians combine proven cognitive therapies with the Arrowsmith Program. The unique hybrid method of combining cognitive therapies with the Arrowsmith Program accelerates changes in learning success.

ps_tlc3“We don’t expect our students to stay with us more than one to two years before they are ready to reintegrate into mainstream classes with new levels of success, academically and socially. This is a short-term investment in the life of a child with permanent changes in learning skills.”

In addition to their private school option, TLC offers services before, during, and after school for families that choose therapy while remaining in their current school of choice. With their new name in the new year, TLC has redesigned its financial structure with a reduced cost to families. “We have no contracts, lower hourly services, and increased student services,” Maria related. “We are listening to the parents – we are making it easier for them to give their children what they need.”

990 Highland Dr., #106A
Solana Beach, CA 92075

Head of School: Maria Bagby
Established: 2012
Open House: 2nd Monday of every month 9 – 11 a.m. or call for an individual consultation

Grades: 1-12, Co-Ed
Enrollment: 15
Tuition: $40,000, financial aid offered
About the School: Therapeutic Learning Center (formerly Therapeutic Literacy Center) provides individually specialized cognitive therapy and educational services for remediation of learning disabilities and learning challenges. Just one to two years at TLC prepares students to reintegrate into traditional school classrooms. Individual services are designed to erase not just all kinds of learning problems but all kinds of learning disabilities too so that students can move forward in any learning environment in their future independently confident without need for accommodations.

Maranatha Christian Schools

ps_maranathalogoMaranatha Christian Schools (MCS) has over 27 years of experience in education where students grow their knowledge and talents to serve God in every area of their lives. MCS is committed to a college preparatory program which inspires progress and advancement in excellence. Students have the opportunity to participate in CIF sports, performing arts, STEAM competitions, robotics, and many choices of clubs. With 17 AP courses and an emphasis on technology through courses such as engineering and design, automation, and robotics, MCS students are prepared to succeed in some of the finest colleges.

ps_maranatha2MCS has won several San Diego Section CIF Championships in multiple sports as well as a CIF State Championship in girls volleyball. The 2017-2018 high school yearbook team was the recipient of the National Crown Award through the Columbia Scholastics Press Association, and is a finalist to receive a Gold or Silver Crown in March of 2019.

Student government (ASB) is available from 4th through 12th grade for students to participate and hold leadership roles. Multiple clubs are available for students to join in high school, such as: Newspaper Club, Design Club, Key Club, National Honor Society, and much more. A genuine love for others permeates the culture and extends beyond the MCS campus through a variety of student community service opportunities such as missions trips, Operation Christmas Child, and blood drives.

At MCS, students from preschool through high school experience a culture of excitement for learning and a family-friendly supportive community. Campus tours Fridays at 9 a.m. For more information visit www.MaranathaChristianSchools.org.

9050 Maranatha Dr.
San Diego, CA 92127

Open House: Feb. 7, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Grades: Preschool–12, Co-Ed
Enrollment: 910
Student/Teacher: Average Preschool: 6:1; Elementary: 22:1; Junior High: 23:1; High School: 17:1
Tuition: Preschool starting at $2,880; TK-12 $7,200-$13,000

Village Church Preschool

by LIZ ONUFER | photos provided by the Village Church Preschool

ps_villagechurchlogoOver 50 years ago, the Village Church Preschool (VCP) began a program focused on individual learning interests, nurturing relationships, and early childhood development for children ages two to five. With the individual attention on each child, the program “instills a love for learning through hands-on experiences that challenge each student,” shared Pamela Miller, the director of VCP.

ps_villagechurch2One of the cornerstones of VCP is recognizing the individual strengths and interests of each child and developing curriculum around those interests. “We value and view each child as capable and competent individuals whom we treat with great respect,” Pamela said. By focusing on individual needs, the teachers and staff foster the seeds of lifelong learning. “We challenge students to engage creatively, while exploring their spirit of inquiry,” she acknowledged. “Viewing the teachers and children as co-learners, our staff use their knowledge of emotional, social, academic, and physical development to enhance the growth of each child.”

“We value and view each child as capable and competent individuals whom we treat with great respect.”

ps_villagechurch3At the heart of that growth are the relationships nurtured at VCP. As a core component of the program, children connect with other children, teachers, parents, and the community. Since preschool is often the first time a child develops a relationship outside of their family, this connection is crucial. Pamela explains, “These strong, healthy relationships are essential for a child’s brain development to make complex connections with the world around them.” Children build relationships with both the adults and their peers. “We work with our students to learn how to collaborate, negotiate, and problem solve with their peers,” she said. “We prepare our students for 21st century expectations in a warm and loving environment.”

ps_villagechurch4The curriculum at VCP is crafted to encourage student interests and to nurture the whole child. This includes social, spiritual, cognitive, emotional, and gross motor development. Teachers incorporate all the components of STEAM curriculum – science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. Children participate in music and Spanish programs, as well as the outdoor art studio, phonics, and the Handwriting without Tears program. The monthly Chapel Time program is designed to inspire children through the love of God.

Since 1962, VCP has been inspiring, developing, and connecting with children. Today, the commitment to the whole child remains the heart of VCP’s program. “We have had children attend VCP whose parents attended the Village when they were preschool-age children,” shared Pamela. “Our rich history speaks volumes about our consistent and inspiring preschool.”

6225 Paseo Delicias
Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067

Director: Pamela Miller
Established: 1962

Open House: Call or email to schedule a personal tour during school hours
Grades: Preschool Ages 2-5, Co-Ed
Enrollment: 140
Student/Teacher: Age 2 – 10:2; Age 3 – 13:2; Age 4 – 17:2
Tuition: No tuition aid offered
About the School: The Village is a nonprofit church-related preschool nestled in the town of Rancho Santa Fe since 1962. We are known for our balanced curriculum providing for the whole child! Our exceptionally educated, passionate, and experienced staff is attentive to every area of a child’s development, providing the highest quality program for toddlers through Transitional Kindergarten-age children. Above and beyond everything, our hope is that these children develop a love of learning, nurture meaningful friendships, and have the time of their lives!

Private Schools List

Cathedral Catholic High School
5555 Del Mar Heights Rd.
San Diego, CA 92130
Cathedral Catholic High School is an innovative leader in Catholic, college preparatory education. Their rigorous, innovative education program is offered in a nurturing community based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and traditions of the Catholic Church.

Del Mar Pines School
3975 Torrington St.
San Diego, CA 92130
Offering elementary school students (grades K-6) a unique blend of individual attention, low student-to-teacher ratios, and a robust curriculum, all taught in a safe and nurturing environment.

Encinitas Country Day School
3616 Manchester Ave.
Encinitas, CA 92024
Now in its 31st year, Encinitas Country Day School serves preschool through eighth grade students on two beautiful campuses. The ECDS curriculum develops well-rounded students of scholarship, integrity, and service.

Horizon Prep
6233 El Apajo
Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067
College preparatory classical education for students in preschool through high school. With fully credentialed teachers, impressive college acceptances and test scores, and opportunities in arts, athletics, and technology, Horizon Prep is a distinctly different learning environment in the heart of Rancho Santa Fe.

La Jolla Country Day
9490 Genesee Ave.
La Jolla, CA 92037
La Jolla Country Day School is an independent, college preparatory school, serving students age three to grade 12. LJCDS is committed to inspiring greatness for a better world by fostering a community that leads with dignity.

445 Marine View Ave., Ste. 290
Del Mar, CA 92014
At Lindamood-Bell Academy, sensory-cognitive instruction is paired with a full curriculum to develop the imagery-language foundation that underlies learning and literacy. An accredited private K-12 school, with classes available in person or online, the curriculum at the Academy is individualized and flexible to meet each student’s needs.

Maranatha Christian Schools
9050 Maranatha Dr.
San Diego, CA 92127
Christian Schools is a college prep learning community where students experience God’s love, are equipped to fulfill God’s unique call and purpose, and excel in their God-given potential through academics, arts, and athletics.

Pacific Ridge School
6269 El Fuerte St.
Carlsbad, CA 92009
Pacific Ridge makes it easy for students to get involved and discover their passions. Activities such as service learning, clubs, arts, and athletics, considered extracurriculars at most schools, are built into the daily, weekly and yearly calendar so all students can participate.

Santa Fe Christian Schools
838 Academy Dr.
Solana Beach, CA 92075
Santa Fe Christian Schools (SFC) is a private preschool through 12th grade college preparatory school located in Solana Beach. With a 100% four-year college acceptance rate, SFC graduates are accepted into top colleges and universities across the nation.

St. Michael’s School
15542 Pomerado Rd.
Poway, CA 92064
St. Michael’s School, located on a sprawling 25-acre campus in Poway, California, is a private, Catholic preschool through middle school preparing graduates to achieve success in high school and beyond.

The Children’s School
2225 Torrey Pines Ln.
La Jolla, CA 92037
The Children’s School features a supportive environment where students feel safe and known and a toddler through eighth grade curriculum designed to teach critical thinking skills and collaboration.

The Grauer School
1500 S. El Camino Real
Encinitas, CA 92024
As the longest-serving independent school in North County, The Grauer School develops students who are purposeful, confident global citizens by encouraging them to develop personal passions and find their unique voices.

Therapeutic Learning Center
990 Highland Dr., Ste. 106A
Solana Beach, CA 92075
Therapeutic Learning Center (formerly Therapeutic Literacy Center) offers a full-time school as well as an after-school therapy clinic for individualized cognitive therapy and educational services. FIX learning challenges and disabilities so students can thrive in any classroom environment.

The Winston School
215 9th St.
Del Mar, CA 92014
The Winston School inspires hope and success in students who have struggled to realize their potential. For almost 30 years, The Winston School has educated students with learning differences by creating a high-quality learning environment where they can learn and are challenged to find their passion.

Tri-City Christian School
302 N. Emerald Dr.
Vista, CA 92083
For 47 years Tri-City Christian School has been a place where students are empowered to realize their full potential through a robust curriculum that is Biblically grounded and culturally relevant.

Village Church Preschool
6225 Paseo Delicias
Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067
The Village Church Preschool offers engaging, inspiring curriculum for children ages two to five, along with infant and toddler music programs. Discover a life-long love of learning in this supportive community.