Best School Districts in San Diego

We’re about to dive deep into the best school districts in San Diego. If you’re a resident of San Diego, or want to become one, you should know that the city has some of the best schools in all of California, if not all of the country. 

If you have a family (or are planning to) school systems are a pretty significant factor when deciding where to live. You might love an area, but don’t love the public schools in your district. Maybe you have found your dream location, but there are no private schools nearby, and you’re set on a private education for your kiddos.

While ratings are important when it comes to graduation rates, testing scores, and college acceptance, there is so much more to what makes a good school. Combining all the aforementioned variables with the unique lifestyle and extracurriculars students experience in the San Diego school system, kids lucky enough to go to school here get an education right out of the movies.

What makes San Diego Schools Unique

Starting with the obvious, going to school right next to the ocean isn’t an experience most kids in the United States grow up with. Surfboards hanging out of the back of electrically charged Tesla’s driven by sun-bleached blondes in cutoffs isn’t something you’d see pulling up to school in; let’s say, Omaha.  But you might easily see that at a school in Southern California.

Outdoor Campuses

True, nothing is exactly like the movies (people have real jobs, classes, obligations, and lives), but students in San Diego get to experience a lot of the perks of the southern California weather and lifestyle. For instance, most of the schools in San Diego have outdoor campuses, meaning during lunch, in between class, during P.E. class, and even just walking down the hall, students are outside much of the day. Some schools even have outdoor amphitheatres to accompany all their sports complexes. 

Spending that much of the school day outside in most parts of the country would be not only messy (I’m looking at you, rainy Seattle) but just downright mean in other places (looking at you, Philadelphia winters!) But San Diego students get to enjoy the fresh air, mood boost, and vitamin D production of that beautiful California sun every day! (Just make sure you throw some sunscreen in those backpacks)

School Transportation

Most public school systems in America offer transportation to and from school free of charge to students, covered by city and state taxes. This is not so much the case in San Diego. While there are still school busses, there’s often a fee to utilize them, sometimes over five hundred dollars a year, just to get kids to school and back home. Some of these schools with more than a thousand students have only two or three busses that service the entire school population.

This lack of transportation isn’t designed to force Mom or Dad out of bed at 6:00 am, to yank on mismatched socks and hide behind a pair of sunglasses, just hoping to sneak back home unseen, but because San Diego makes a distinct effort to build neighborhood adjacent schools that are walking or bike riding distance from where students live. This frees up everyone’s schedule, promotes a healthy lifestyle, and reduces carbon emissions.

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For those moving to San Diego from anywhere else in the country that provides school transportation, this may seem like a huge inconvenience, but don’t worry, you’ll probably find yourself living somewhere where you can benefit from these walkable school distances, and realize it’s even better that way! After all, didn’t you have to walk five miles to school, uphill both ways?!

After School Activities

After school activities are another huge part of the education and maturation experience. Everyone takes tests and does their homework, but it’s on the baseball field or in choir practice that children forge friendships, learn social and communication skills, and find their own, unique personalities.

As we know, San Diego is a unique area to grow up in, and with that comes some really exciting after school activities students can participate in, such as surfing or a beach volleyball team. With the endless summer and access to the ocean, aquatic sports are huge in San Diego schools. And with that being said, some of these schools don’t offer all of the traditional sports you would expect, such as football or cheerleading. As you decide which school is right for you, find out what kind of activities your kids would like to be involved in, and which schools offer them.

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Along with the wonderful extracurricular activities for the students of San Diego County, these schools also offer really exceptional after school childcare options for households with working parents. Not only are the after school programs and day care of high caliber, but they are extremely affordable. Most of the activities are free, and the after school care is very economically priced, making those few hours between the end of school and the end of the work day more doable for the busy family.

Start of School

Another unique aspect of the schools in San Diego is the differential start times. Some schools may start at 7:30am, others 8:05am, etc. This might not pose an issue while all of your offspring are in one school, but as time passes and older kids head off to middle or high school, or heaven forbid, you have THREE or more schools to drop off to, this can get both hectic and difficult to plan. It might even be the deciding factor in where your kids can go to school, unless they can walk, drive, or otherwise get themselves there if Mom or Dad have to drop off brothers and sisters elsewhere. Most families find the perfect way to work it out, but it’s definitely worth looking into when you are choosing the best school for you and your children.

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San Diego’s Top School Districts

Now that we’ve touched on what makes San Diego schools so unique, let’s look at some of the best schools in the area.

San Diego county school district map

San Dieguito Union High School District

San Dieguito Union High School District logo, Best school districts in San Diego, Living in San Diego (1)
San Diego county school district map - San Dieguito Union High School District

Consistently ranked number one, is San Dieguito Union High School District. Among this district are a few high schools, and many middle and elementary schools to choose from.

Torrey Pines High School, for instance, offers students a more traditional high school experience.

Canyon Crest Academy is a school centered around academia and scholarship, with limited sports options, and no football team.

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Poway Unified School District

Poway Unified School District logo, Best school districts in San Diego, Living in San Diego (1)
San Diego county school district map - Poway Unified School District

Poway Unified School District is another highly rated school system in San Diego. With 39 schools within its district, the Poway Unified School District is the second largest district in the county, directly under San Diego Unified School District. The Poway school system covers a large area of San Diego County, meaning you have a lot of different schools offering many different options, and lots of different start time.! (Remember, that last one is really going to matter as the family grows)

Coronado Unified School District

Coronado Unified School District logo, Best school districts in San Diego, Living in San Diego (1)
San Diego county school district map - Coronado Unified School District

Another highly rated school system is the Coronado Unified School District, located on Coronado Island. This school district is the smallest in San Diego, covering only the expanse of Coronado Island. Though small, all the schools in this district rank as A+ schools.

Carlsbad Unified School District

Carlsbad Unified School District logo, Best school districts in San Diego, Living in San Diego (1)
San Diego county school district map - Carlsbad Unified School District

Another small but mighty school system is Carlsbad Unified School District. This system only has a few schools within its jurisdiction, but has an outstanding sports program and highly involved community when it comes to the high school sports, such as football games.

San Diego Unified School District

San Diego Unified School District logo, Best school districts in San Diego, Living in San Diego (1)
San Diego county school district map, SD Unified School District

We of course can’t conclude without mentioning the biggest school district in San Diego, San Diego Unified School District. There’s so many schools within this district, we can’t possibly list them all and give a breakdown of what each offers, but we can say its sheer size in numbers provides a lot of options. There are schools with more traditional settings, schools with highly rated academic teams, schools with superb extracurricular activities, or a particularly good fine arts program. You name it, you can find it in the San Diego Unified School District.

This district as a whole ranks as a “B” rated school system, while the schools we touched on above are all “A+” schools. The differences, however, are pretty incremental. Some schools are better than others, of course, but there are so many in this district it’s not really comparable to the smaller districts with less factors playing into their ranking. All of the schools in San Diego are great. It’s just about finding the one that’s right for you, and whatever is of most importance to you and your family.

Thinking of moving to San Diego, California?

As you can see, the outstanding public school systems are one of the biggest draws to those considering living in San Diego. Taxes are high in California, there’s no doubt about it. So when you know your money is going towards public education, and the education of not only your community but your own children, it pays back tenfold when you know your area offers some of the best public education in the country. San Diego has so much to offer. The weather is great, the landscape is beautiful, the lifestyle is healthy, the people seem happier, and yes, even the schools are better. What’s not to love about living in San Diego? Go ahead, we’ll wait!


If you need help with finding the best area of San Diego to move to based on the school requirements you need, we can help! Reach out to us by phone or email and we’ll schedule a time to help you get started on your moving process.