Choices abound in Chico

Chico High School, just off The Esplanade near downtown Chico, was founded in 1902.

Chico High School, just off The Esplanade near downtown Chico, was founded in 1902.

Chico is a growing city, and that means lots of kids around town. Choosing where to send your children to school is an important decision, and public and private schools offer a variety of different experiences. Chico always makes education a priority, from nursery school to high school and beyond. Dedicated teachers and quality programs compensate for a tightening budget, making sure that Chico kids always come first.


A variety of programs for the under-5 group, ranging from two half-days a week to full days of care, provide plenty of options for parents of little ones. Here are just a few programs offered.

Chico Nursery School
1190 E. 1st Ave., 891-1723
Chico Nursery School is a co-op, the only one in town, where parents donate time. There are two programs, divided by age group. Younger kids meet Tuesdays and Thursdays and the almost-kindergarteners meet Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Classes in the mornings only.

Innovative Preschool
2404 Marigold Ave., 343-2028
Innovative, part of the Chico Unified School District, is true to its name. Its motto is: “All kids, all needs, all together.” And in following that philosophy, everyone benefits. Day care available.

Smart Start Preschool
1585 East Ave., 897-6278
One of Chico’s newest preschools, Smart Start offers preschool as well as preparation for kindergarten. After-school program also available.

Public schools

Chico Unified School District
Formed in 1964, the Chico Unified School District currently serves 13,200 students. The district has a policy of letting parents send their students to the schools of their choice, as long as there’s room. The CUSD includes 14 elementary schools, one K-8 open-structured-classroom school, three junior highs and three high schools (including an alternative school). While the budget is tight and elementary enrollment is down, the CUSD still offers a high-quality education. Several campuses have special programs, like Two-Way Language Immersion, Open Structured and Academics Plus. Test scores and other state measures of achievement are kept at the district offices at 1163 E. 7th St. (891-3000). The CUSD offers a home-schooling program and oversees two charter schools, Chico Country Day School and Nord Country School. It also oversees a community day school, which, by referrals, takes in students who have been on probation or suspension.

Chico Country Day School
895-2650 ext. 201
This charter school is supervised by the CUSD but directly run by its own administrators and parents. There’s no tuition, of course, since it’s technically a public school. It’s K-8, with small class sizes, curriculum aligned to state standards and before- and after-school programs. There’s also an on-site preschool.

Nord Country School
This charter school formed in 2005, when dedicated members of the Nord Cana Community Association came together to save Nord School—the oldest school in the district—after it was set to close under budget constraints. The philosophy of the small K-6 is based on the belief that learning best occurs in a safe environment where the school forms close ties with students, parents and the community.

Butte County Office of Education
1859 Bird St. in Oroville, 532-5650,
BCOE oversees all the public schools in the county, along with countywide programs such as Regional Occupational Programs (ROP), migrant education, Head Start and community schools. BCOE also oversees two charter schools in Chico: The Blue Oak Charter School, which opened in 2001 and uses Waldorf methods of teaching, and the Four Winds of Indian Education.

Private schools

Progressive Schoolhouse
2400 Notre Dame Blvd., 345-5665,
This 21-year-old K-8 school moved from Paradise to Chico in 2000. Each student gets an individualized program, and the school focuses on developmental stages. Tuition plus a materials fee totals about $3,500 a year.

There are also several schools in Chico operated by religious interests, not to mention the many high-school students who ride a bus 40 minutes north to attend the Catholic Mercy High School in Red Bluff ( Here are some of the bigger ones:

Notre Dame School
435 Hazel St., 342-2502,
Notre Dame is a Catholic elementary school serving kindergarten through eighth grades. It’s been here since 1928 and was expanded in 1953 and again in 1979. It has 300 students, with learning coordinated closely with area parishes. Uniforms are worn.

Chico Christian School
2801 Notre Dame Blvd. 343-6051.
Affiliated with Neighborhood Church, this is a K-8 school. (There’s also a preschool.) Uniforms are worn.

The Pleasant Valley Baptist School
13539 Garner Ln., north of town off Highway 99, 343-2949
The only K-12 Christian school in Butte County, this school is affiliated with and housed by the church.

Champion Christian School
1184 East Ave., 345-8008,
This 7-12, interdenominational school has been in operation since 1992. The teachers integrate Bible studies into each subject. Champion has competitive sports teams. Enrollment begins each April.