Alternative programs at Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) middle and high schools serve students who need or desire an alternative instructional approach. They offer students opportunities to earn credits in a way that is compatible with their level of ability, interest, talent, and orientation to school. They allow students to complete high school in productive and purposeful ways. 

To enroll in an alternative program, students must be recommended by a counselor or administrator at their school.

High School Programs 

  • Opportunity Class: Each high school has an Opportunity Class that serves 9th and 10th grade students under age 16 who need a small, self-contained instructional setting. The program is designed to help students establish successful patterns of attendance, academic achievement, and social behavior. Students are placed in this program with the goal of eventually reentering mainstream program. Standard curriculum is taught in a small, supportive, and personalized setting. See your counselor for more information.
  • Middle College at Foothill Community College: The Middle College program is designed for juniors and seniors who are mature enough to handle a college level environment and take responsibility for their own educational planning and credit completion. Students take both high school and college level classes on the Foothill campus and receive double credit for completed college level courses.
  • Alta Vista Continuation High School: Students may enter this program the semester they turn 16 with a referral from a counselor or school administrator. The program emphasizes personalized instruction, integrated study, and vocational education and training. Students take core courses alongside elective and vocational education classes. Students may use this program to make up missing credits and graduate from Mountain View/ Los Altos School District or PAUSD.
  • Terra Bella Academy: Terra Bella is a Santa Clara County run program for students (grades 8-12) who are credit deficient, need for direct adult support and require a smaller environment. These students may have been expelled or are no longer permitted on school campuses.
  • Independent Study: Independent Study programs are available at both Paly and Gunn high schools for students who need credits to graduate. Students meet with an Independent Study teacher to receive work assignments and tests. See your counselor for more information.
  • General Education Diploma (GED): PAUSD students can enroll in classes to prepare for the GED shortly before their eighteenth birthday. Classes are offered through the Palo Alto Adult School.
  • Moffet Independent Study: This program is for special education students who have difficulty attending classes in the traditional comprehensive campus setting. Students work with staff in a computer lab to complete on line coursework necessary for graduation. The classroom is located in an office type building. There are two instructors with a supervisor who work with the students.Students must be referred through Special Education and Alternative Education departments. Contact Dave Hoshiwara or (650) 856-0735.
  • Santa Clara County Alternative Schools Department: The Santa Clara County Office of Education provides educational programs for students who are under court supervision or who are not attending regular school for a variety reasons. The program emphasizes academic competency as well as behavior and attitude change.

If you have questions, telephone (650) 493-6004 or