BACK TO BASICS: What’s In A Name?

I am often surprised that many educators are not familiar with the significance of their school district’s name.  School district names are often shortened due to convenience, or lack of awareness, even in formal communications.  While brevity for convenience is appropriate in some circumstances, we think it is also important to recognize that school district names are embedded with meaning.  For example:

  • A “union school district” means a district composed of two or more school districts situated in the same county. [Ed. Code § 81.]
  • “Joint union school district” means a district composed of two or more school districts situated wholly or in part in different counties. [Ed. Code § 82.]
  • A “unified school district” means a district maintaining grades kindergarten or 1 through 12. A unified district may comprise territory in more than one county.  [Ed. Code § 83.]
  • “City school district” includes a school district lying wholly or partly within a city and county. [Ed. Code § 84.]
  • A high school district (other than a city high school district) comprising two or more elementary school districts lying wholly in the same county is a union high school district, and such designation shall be part of its name. [Ed. Code § 86.]
  • A school district lying in more than one county is a joint school district. [Ed. Code § 87.]

Thus, the “XYZ Joint Union High School District” informs us that the district provides instruction in grades 9 through 12 [Ed. Code § 41600(b)] and serves students who reside in more than one county.  Similarly, the “Phi Beta Kappa Union Elementary School District” serves students in kindergarten through 8th grade [Ed. Code § 41600(a)] at two or more school sites entirely within the same county.

Moreover, just in case there was any question, whenever “high school district” is used in the Education Code that reference includes union, joint union, and county high school districts (unless a contrary intent is indicated).  [Ed. Code § 85.]  Likewise, “any school district” and “all school districts” mean school districts of every kind or class (other than a community college district).  [Ed. Code § 80.]

Test Questions:  What is the definition of a “county unified school district?” How many are there?  Can you name them?



Ed. Code § 1000.  Six (6).  Alpine, Amador, Del Norte, Mariposa, San Francisco and Sierra.  Plumas Unified School District and Plumas County Office of Education are not a “true” county unified school district because the territorial boundaries of the District and the County Office of Education are not entirely coincident.

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