6 things you (probably) didn’t know about Pacific Coast High School

Student working with a teacherOCDE’s Pacific Coast High School has officially become a mock trial powerhouse, reaching the county championship two of the last three years.

In recognition of its most recent run, the legal eagles from PCHS and several staff members were honored earlier this month at the Orange County Board of Education meeting.

But there’s a lot more to the Tustin-based, independent-study public school than competitive courtroom battles. In fact, here are six things you might not know about Pacific Coast High.

The school is a hybrid of online and in-person instruction.

Established by OCDE in 1996, PCHS operates like a community college for high school students, offering online courses and on-campus options for students who want something beyond the traditional high school experience.

You won’t see sprawling quads or pep rallies here, but the graduation rate is nearly 98 percent, and the 400 or so students who attend have opportunities to participate in clubs, support classes, extracurricular activities and electives. We’ll get to some of those in a minute.

Its student body includes actors and athletes.

Student with computers

PCHS has a diverse student body that includes athletes, actors, musicians and others who have outside ambitions and need a more flexible schedule. The campus also serves students with unique medical needs, high schoolers with social anxieties and others who perform better when they’re surrounded by smaller peer groups.

“We’ve got students here who would have never had the social experience, the interaction or sense of community in a high school that had 2,000 or 3,000 students,” Principal Machele Kilgore says. “They come here and they thrive.”

“We’ll have the prom next week,” Kilgore adds. “I’m going to see the girl who would’ve been the prom queen at any high school, all decked out, and I’m also going to see the girl who probably made her own dress and never would’ve gone to her own prom, and they will all be out dancing together.”

The campus is collegiate yet cozy.

Nestled in an industrial park, PCHS offers the feel of a college student center — or maybe a film set for a TV show about college. There are three main classrooms that accommodate in-person instruction throughout the week, and the teachers have individual offices. The school even hosts a coffeehouse for its students once a week.

“We have coffeehouse every Wednesday where we offer hot chocolate, coffee and light snacks,” the principal says. “We play music, and students get together to socialize and play on the Promethean (interactive display) board. It’s got a coffeehouse vibe, but at your high school.”

There are dozens of career paths and electives to choose from.

There’s an academic track for pretty much everyone. You’ve got A-G courses that meet UC and CSU requirements, along with NCAA-approved courses for student-athletes. There are credit recovery programs and non-college tracks. There are also scores of electives that introduce students to criminology, film production, psychology, cosmetology, economics, law, journalism, foreign languages, speed reading, and sports and entertainment marketing. Add to that menu art, music and drama classes — along with an elite mock trial team.

Every student’s schedule is a little different.

Student and teacher work with a 3D printer

Hammering home collegiate themes, the dozen-plus teachers and support staff here emphasize time management, accountability, responsibility, communication and perseverance.

And, just like college, each student’s schedule will vary based on their interests and needs.

“My favorite schedule is when they’re here two days a week and then they either come early to work in the computer lab and meet with their teachers, or they stay later,” Kilgore says. “And most of them do that.”

Students can enroll from pretty much anywhere in Orange County.

Pacific Coast High School serves students from school districts throughout Orange County, and enrollment is already underway for the 2019-20 school year. For more information, visit pchs.k12.ca.us or call 714-245-6500.