Carmel Schools are known to be some of the best schools on the Monterey Bay Peninsula. The Carmel Unified School District (CUSD) is near the size of the state of Rhode Island, covering roughly 600 square miles from parts of Pebble Beach, Carmel, Carmel Valley, and down to Big Sur. The Carmel Unified School District operates nearby schools including Carmel High School, Carmel Middle School, Tularcitos Elementary School, Carmel River Elementary School, and Captain Cooper Elementary School. Additionally, the school district offers additional support to students at Carmel Valley High School (max 40 student capacity), Carmelo Child Development Center for Preschool (which start at 2 months to PreK), and Carmel Adult School for adults looking to continue their education.
The easiest way to sum up Carmel’s school district is that it’s like getting a private school education in a public setting. The schools on each level offer a very supportive approach to the student and the student’s family, not only focusing on academics but also provide a welcoming experience, that is enriching and purposeful. It’s no wonder the Carmel Unified School District has been awarded with such high achievements such as being in the top 10% of all school districts in the state of California. Each of Carmel’s schools prepares the student not only for the next level of education whether that be preparing elementary students for junior high, to junior high preparing for high school, or high school preparing for college, but also to be leaders and contributors in their community.
With the town of Carmel being an Art Mecca, the school district has created some very strong art programs. There is a large musical program, art program, and drama program. Carmel Unified School District has been recognized by the National Association of Music Merchants as one of the “Best Communities for Music Education in America.”
The school district also has a very unique 10-acre environmental habitat called Hilton Bialek Habitat at Carmel Middle School. This project was originally built in 1999 and is a multi million-dollar facility featuring a Green Building with a “living roof” that houses more than 477 plants and 185 bird species. The focus of this habitat is to teach students about environmental stewardship through science, history, language, culinary, and art classes along with teaching young people to contribute to their communities and the wellbeing of the planet, through daily personal action. CUSD’s goal was to establish an outdoor education environment where kids could do field studies and experiment with science rather than read about it in a textbook. This habitat serves as a teaching facility for approximately 1,500 CUSD students to learn about sustainability education and practices which include plant propagation, habitat restoration, wildlife studies, sustainable agriculture, cooking and nutrition, climate change, resources, alternative energy systems, waste/recycling and green building components.
Although CUSD is widely known for its shining student stars and high academic achievements, they also have very strong programs to assist students that are struggling with school to provide extra support so the students get the assistance they need to get back on track. As a result of their efforts to help improve the performance of struggling students, Carmel Unified School District was one of the few California school districts to be recognized by a research study for “Raising All Boats” conducted by the American Institutes for Research. The study was based off high performing schools and how all students, troubled or not, are statistically over performing in their classes.
What is the most impressive characteristic of CUSD is that instead of focusing on all of the awards they have received for their academic and community excellence, they would rather focus on the rewards the students, parents, staff, board members, and community receive by working together to help students create an enriching educational experience. CUSD realizes that the main ingredient of their success is their motivated and capable students. They also credit their wise and mature Board Members that have focused on creating a community that fully supports students. Because of this “Perfect Storm” of factors, CUSD has been able to help students not only achieve excellence in their academics but also pride themselves on providing a fun experience that students are creating a solid foundation for a productive life and happy memories that will last a lifetime.
The way the school district is funded is unique on its own. Rather than having a standard approach to funding the schools as an “Attendance” based funding model, which is where schools will only receive funds based on how many students attend classes, the Carmel Unified School District is funded by local property taxes. This allows the schools to have a steady flow of funds rather than a fluctuating amount of funds due to students being absent throughout the school year.
According to Sperling’s BestPlaces.net, Carmel Public Schools spend roughly $8,778 per student. The average Expenditure in the US is $5,691. Additionally, there are roughly 15 students per teacher.
Because the school district covers so much area, as mentioned above, over 600 square miles, the school district boundaries are very specific as to who can and cannot attend school in the district. Carmel Unified School District services areas of Pebble Beach, parts of Carmel, parts of Carmel Valley and parts of Big Sur. Some boundaries are actually run right down the center of a street so it causes some confusion on who is zoned for the CUSD. Additionally, some people assume they are zoned for Carmel Unified School District because they have an address in “Carmel” however that is not a “ guarantee.” The easiest way to confirm you are zoned for the Carmel Unified School District is to call their offices directly at 831-624-1546 with a physical address.
Each of the three elementary schools offers small class sizes with options for the students to study music, art and Spanish. Their goal is to expose students at an early age to multiple cultural experiences. The Elementary schools pride themselves on having support for students at a variety of learning levels. They offer additional support with programs for students that may be struggling with school to help them get back on track. It is also important to note that there are a number of options for students that find school easy and need additional challenges.
Carmel Middle School
Carmel Middle School has been honored with being one of California’s Distinguished Schools. This award is given only to the schools that best represent exemplary and quality educational programs.
Carmel Middle School is the same as the CUSD Elementary Schools as the focus is on developing a core academic foundation for the students along with a variety of electives including woodshop, chorus, music, drama, art, Ecoliteracy, and foreign languages. They are widely known for their excellent Science, Math, Art, Music, Language, and Art Departments. Students can even start earning high school credit by learning a foreign language in French, Chinese, or Spanish.
Because CUSD is committed to helping students become prepared for the next level of academics, the Middle School features a Career and College center which explains the whole college process to the students and assist’s the students with picking a college along with guiding them through the application process.
The pride of Carmel Middle School is the multi-million dollar facility, Hilton Bialek Habitat, which is adjacent to the school, there are many classes offered to students to utilize the amazing facility. Each 6th grade student is taught a daily six-week class called Ecoliteracy, that engages students in the current and pressing environmental issues facing our planet today. The classes are designed to empower students to take action in their daily lives to make a positive impact on the planet.
The “living roof” may be one of the most impressive attributes to the unique Green Building. Students have the opportunity to see how much water the living roof is collecting and they are able to observe the plants growing on it. They also have the opportunity to study the amount of water the roof absorb and the water system that sheds un absorbed water that disperses to the organic garden.
Additional classes that use the Habitat include cooking area that integrate the Habitat’s organic garden, water studies class which utilizes the pond, foreign language classes can use the outdoor kitchen to bring language to life through growing and cooking heritage foods and cultural celebrations, and plant harvesting classes encourage student to help care for over 180 California native plants.
For extra curricular activities, the school focuses on teaching leadership and team building skills to the student through the Green Club, multiple dances held throughout the year, food drives, and local community service participation.
Additionally, the athletic programs are amazing at the middle school. The school offers some of the nicest facilities in the area. There are 16 different sports including Boys and Girls Volleyball, Soccer, Cross Country, Basketball, Track and Field, Golf, Tennis, and Wrestling.
Carmel High School
Carmel High School (CHS) is distinguished as one of the best High Schools in the state of California and even in the United States. US News voted Carmel High School in the Top 1% of all High Schools in the United States and awarded the school with it’s highest ranking of a Gold School. US News evaluated more than 21,000 public high schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Schools are awarded gold, silver or bronze medals based on state proficiency standards and how well they prepare students for college.
The Washington Post has also recognized CHS for it’s academic achievements and college readiness with it’s “America’s Most Challenging High School” Award. America’s Most Challenging High Schools ranks schools throughout the nation by an index formula combines the test given in a school year, divided by the number of seniors who graduated that year. Impressively, CHS placed 226th nationally for the award and 27th in the state of California. Some of the contributing factors to being given the award is because of CHS’s 98.2% graduation rate, impressive ACT and SAT scores of their students and a 58% of their students go on to college.
Carmel High School is very proud of their National Awards because they have worked hard for a number of years diligently on creating a solid academic foundation for students and cultivating a college bound mentality among students. CHS stresses that they do not assume or pressure students to go to college, but purposefully making sure that any student who wants to go to attend college is fully prepared. And that’s their commitment that when students leave CHS, that they’re prepared to not only enter a university but succeed in their trainings.
CHS claims that their academic and college bound culture stems from the great Carmel community, parents of the students, and dedicated professional staff. CHS offers a top-notch core of teachers and an exceptional group of dedicated support staff. CHS views its role as providing not only an amazing learning environment for students but all providing customer service to the community it serves, which is something you don’t hear much about in a public school setting.
The high school focused on providing students with a well-rounded experience. CHS has excellent Math, Science, English, History, Language and Visual and Performing Arts Departments. There are 14 different Advanced Placement courses and approximately 70 percent of the student body participates in the AP Classes. They are truly interested in graduates not only be academically capable but also good people. CHS helps students with character development with a variety of elective programs such as Student Leadership, Strategies of Success, and Advancement via Individual Determination. The school also offers multiple clubs for students to participate in which include environmental clubs, forensics clubs, and aviation clubs just to name a few.
Carmel High School offers a wide range of interscholastic sports and encourages all students to participate in interscholastic and extracurricular activities. Approximately 40% of all students participate in one or more Interscholastic Sports Team. CHS offers a total of 17 athletic teams to participate on including Cheerleading, Cross Country, Field Hockey, Football, Tennis, Volleyball, Water Polo, Basketball, Soccer, Wrestling, Baseball, Softball, Swim/Dive, Track and Field, Golf and Lacrosse.