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About us

The Ark is a unique pathway for self-motivated learners with a strong independent approach to their academic success. Supported by weekly meetings with credentialed teachers, Ark students enjoy flexibility in their school experience and highly individualized curriculum built around their interests and driven by their curiosity.

Who can attend?

Independent Studies is designed for students in grades 9–12 who are self-directed and able to work in an independent mode who live in the Santa Cruz City Schools district. This program is especially appropriate for students who:

  • Have a learning style which allows success when working independently

  • Need to have a job

  • Are involved in some specific sport or activity that interferes with a regular school day

  • Are traveling

  • Are taking classes at Cabrillo or through CTE

  • Are pregnant or are new parents

Mission & School-wide Vision

  • Connect with students as individuals

  • Inspire students to find meaning

  • Motivate students to take responsibility

  • Support students to discover and pursue their interests


Ark student learning outcomes:

  1. Every student will demonstrate personal responsibility

  2. Every student will be an effective communicator

  3. Every student will be able to demonstrate & apply higher order thinking skills.

What Curriculum is Offered at the ARK?

Independent Studies offers a complete course of study for a high school diploma.  We have over sixty courses, offering the same or similar curriculum as the comprehensive high schools in our district.
Students are challenged at their ability level, and courses are based on the California State Content Standards and/or the Common Core Standards.

Some types of courses are not available, such as lab science, foreign language, or vocational training.  Arrangements with Santa Cruz High, Harbor High, Soquel High, Cabrillo College, CTE or adult education can meet those needs.

Students receive extra academic support at each independent studies site through access to homework clubs and tutoring.

Attendance Requirements

Students must take a minimum of four classes each semester and complete a minimum of twenty hours of academic work per week. Elective credits can be earned for a job or for P.E., but these courses can't be used to fulfill the 20 hour weekly homework requirement.

In addition to the course requirements, students must attend and meet individually with their teacher for a one hour appointment each week. 

There are no excused absences in Independent Studies, so missed appointments must be covered by a parent and assigned work must be turned at each individual appointment time. Regular attendance is crucial to student achievement. Students must also make adequate progress each semester in earning credits toward graduation.


For enrollment information, please contact Cynthia Fernandez at (831) 429-3898 x55202. Email:

School Accountability Report Card (SARC)

Every school in California is required by state law to publish a School Accountability Report Card (SARC), by February 1 of each year. The SARC contains information about the condition and performance of each California public school.

Graduation Requirements

The credits required in each academic area are as follows:

  • English — 40 credits

  • Social Studies — 30 credits:

    1. World History — 10 credits

    2. U.S. History — 10 credits

    3. Economics — 5 credits

    4. American Government — 5 credits

  • Science — 20 credits:

    1. Life Science — 10 credits

    2. Physical Science — 10 credits

  • Math — 20 credits:

    1. Algebra — 10 credits

    2. Other math — 10 credits

Credits required in elective areas are 35 total credits, as opposed to 70 elective credits required at comprehensive high schools. Total credits required are 190 credits, as opposed to 230 total credits required at comprehensive high schools. In addition, students are required to complete a senior project.

Does Independent Studies offer a diploma and a graduation ceremony?

Independent Studies offers a regular diploma from Santa Cruz City Schools  A graduation ceremony, complete with cap and gown, is held each year.

Independent Studies requires the same core, academic credits for graduation as the comprehensive high schools in our district, but the Ark requires fewer elective credits than those schools.  Students are also required to complete a Senior Project.

Please note: A diploma from Independent studies is valid and accepted by all community colleges and employers.  However, most public four-year colleges do not accept Independent Studies students directly.  To attend a regular four-year university, I.S. graduates first complete general education requirements at a community college, then transfer to a university for their second two years.

Graduation Requirements

“The Ark has helped me more than any other school.”

Jaiden Obert


"Independent Studies allowed my son to be himself, take the classes in a format that interested him, have plenty of time to work and pursue his hobbies."

Sarah Jones


“Thanks Ark for teaching me learn clearly & improve as a good student :)”

Teresa Orozco


"The program provides ample opportunities for my son to develop important skills like time management, self-discipline, & independence."

Andria Burdette


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