San Diego High School

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San Diego High School
1405 Park Blvd.
San Diego, California, 92101
United States
Type Comprehensive Public High School
Established 1882
School district San Diego Unified School District
CEEB Code 053907 (International Studies)
053209 (Business)
053903 (Science and Technology)
053899 (MVPA)
Grades 9–12
Enrollment 3000
Campus Urban
Color(s)          Blue and white
Mascot Cavers
Newspaper The Russ
Yearbook The Old Grey Castle
SDHS 100 building showing the logos of the six small schools

San Diego High School (SDHS) is an urban public high school. It is located on the southern edge of Balboa Park, in San Diego, California. It is part of the San Diego Unified School District. It is the oldest high school in the San Diego Unified School District and one of the oldest public schools in all of California — the oldest still on its original site.


Russ High (1882–1907)[edit]

The school was established in 1882, initially named Russ School after lumberman Joseph Russ, who offered to donate the lumber to build the school.[1] The school was built in Italian Villa style with low-hip roof, ironwork parapet, and open-bell tower. It consisted of two stories and eight rooms. It initially served elementary students. In 1888 a high school was added, with three teachers. The high school students took over the upper floor; elementary and primary students occupied the lower floor. The first commencement was held in 1889, with four students graduating. In 1893 high school students took over the entire school which was renamed Russ High School.[2]

In 1906 the school building was moved several hundred feet to allow for construction of a new school. The original building was stripped of its ornamentation and was used for storage, dressing rooms, and a cafeteria. It burned down in 1911.[2]

The Grey Castle (1907–1973)[edit]

By 1902 the school had become overcrowded and a new school, San Diego High School, was built on the original site, opening on April 13, 1907.[1] The new building, designed by F.S. Allen of Pasadena, contained 65 rooms and was built in Gothic Revival style, with towers flanking the entrances. It was built of brick with a veneer of granite. Students thought it resembled a castle and nicknamed it "The Grey Castle."[2] In 1913 a polytechnic school was added, with three additional Gothic style buildings housing classes in manual arts, domestic arts, and fine arts. By 1913 there were 55 teachers and 1518 students. The school reached its peak attendance, 3327 students, in 1928.[2]

Balboa Stadium, just east of the high school, was dedicated in 1915. The 2,500 seat Russ Auditorium, just south of the school, was dedicated on May 13, 1926.

Modern San Diego High (1973–present)[edit]

Due to California legislation in the 1960s which required all school districts to demolish or retrofit any school building built prior to 1933 for earthquake safety reasons, the "Grey Castle" building was torn down. The first of four buildings constructed prior to 1933 was torn down along with the Russ Auditorium in 1973; Building 101, the "Original Grey Castle" was the last building to be torn down in 1975.[1] The current school, consisting of four concrete-block buildings with blue trim, was re-dedicated November 6, 1976. Gargoyles from the facade of Russ Auditorium can be seen in a fountain near the school entrance, and heavy carved doors from the "Gray Castle" were installed on the administration building.[2]


In June 2004, as part of the national "School-within-a-School" movement and with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, San Diego High School was divided into 6 thematic schools, collectively called The San Diego High Educational Complex. Each of the six schools of approximately 500 students had its own administration and staff:[1][3] The schools were

  • School of International Studies (incorporating an existing International Baccalaureate program)
  • Lead, Explore, Achieve, Discover and Serve High School (LEADS)
  • School of Business
  • School of Science and Technology (SciTech)
  • School of Media, Visual and Performing Arts (MVPA; School of the Arts)
  • School of Communication Investigations in a Multicultural Atmosphere (CIMA)

In May 2006, Newsweek magazine ranked 1,200 public high schools in the U.S. and named San Diego High School of International Studies as 22nd best, making it the highest ranking in San Diego County and the second highest in the state of California.[4] In 2009, US News ranked over 21,000 high schools in the United States and named San Diego High School of International Studies as 44th best, with an International Baccalaureate (IB) exam pass rate of 98% and an API score of over 800.[5]

In 2012, the School of Communication shut down due to an insufficient number of students. In 2013 the School of Business and the School of LEADS combined to form the School of Business and Leadership, leaving four academies.[6] For the 2015-2016 school year, the arts academy was also closed down and the campus was reunited under a single principal, with the three remaining academies - international studies, business, and science and technology - each functioning under a vice principal.[7]

California Partnership Academies[edit]

San Diego High is home to three academies established within the scope of the California Department of Education California Partnership Academies (CPA) program.[8] The CPA model is a three-year program (grades ten-twelve) structured as a school-within-a-school.[8] The first one, the Academy of Finance, was established in 2007 at the School of Business and Leadership.[9] Two more, the San Diego MedTech Academy and the Green Engineering Academy were established in 2011 and 2012 respectively at the School of Science and Technology, with the first class graduating in 2014.[9] The curriculum at Medtech Academy is based on the Biomedical Sciences program by Project Lead The Way (PLTW).[10]

Balboa Stadium[edit]

Main article: Balboa Stadium

San Diego High's football stadium, Balboa Stadium, was built in 1914 for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition with a capacity of 19,000 at that time. U.S. Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave speeches there. From 1961 to 1966 it was the home of the San Diego Chargers after being expanded to 34,000 capacity.[11] Over the years it has played host to music legends such as Jimi Hendrix, and The Beatles in 1965. The 1914 stadium was torn down in the 1970s and a new one dedicated in 1978 with a seating capacity of about 3,000. In 2009 the stadium saw new turf decorated with the school's mascot, the Caver. The stadium is used for various sports including football, soccer and track, as well as the San Diego High School graduation ceremonies.

Athletic history[edit]

San Diego High School's mascot is the Cavers — originally the Cavemen.[12]

San Diego High participated in the first high school football game in San Diego County in 1898, defeating Escondido High School 6-0. Players and coaches from San Diego traveled in covered wagons over the course of two days to reach their destination.

High School Football National Championship: 1916, 1955

High School Baseball National Champions: 1921

Miscellaneous history[edit]

  • The 1922 San Diego High baseball team was barred from league play by the CIF after its 1921 National Championship Squad played an unsanctioned game against the East's best baseball team of that time Cleveland High. This game drew 11,000 fans which saw San Diego High defeat Cleveland 10-0. During the 1922 season the team played college and independent teams, losing to just Stanford and the Sherman Indians. Beating Cleveland again in front of 13,000 fans.
  • It is said that when the wrecking ball came to demolish the "Grey Castle" in order to build a new earthquake-safe school, it took repeated attempts to bring the structure down. In the summer of 1973, contractors attempted to bring down the "Russ Auditorium" using explosives; portions of the building would not come down. It took an extra six months to finish the demolition of the "Russ Auditorium".
  • Kate Sessions, considered the "Mother of Balboa Park," taught at San Diego High in 1884.

Notable alumni and faculty[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "San Diego High School's History". Retrieved 2014-01-23. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "San Diego High School District and Balboa Park" (PDF). Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  3. ^ Magee, Maureen (2005-03-21). "Benefits of specialized schools may take years to measure". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  4. ^ "NEWSWEEK COVER: America's Best High Schools, 2006". PR Newswire. April 30, 2006. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  5. ^ "School of International Studies San Diego High School". America's Best High Schools 2009. US News. 2009-12-09. Archived from the original on 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2014-01-23. 
  6. ^ "Board Agenda Alert: May 14, 2013". San Diego United Parents for Education. 2013-05-14. Retrieved 2014-01-23. 
  7. ^ Magee, Maureen (June 12, 2015). "San Diego High's big break up on the mend". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "California Partnership Academies (CPA)". California Department of Education. Retrieved 2014-01-24. 
  9. ^ a b "California Partnership Academies Directory". California Department of Education. 2013-05-08. Retrieved 2014-01-24. 
  10. ^ "PLTW Schools". Project Lead The Way. Retrieved 2014-01-23. 
  11. ^ "Chronology 1959-1969". San Diego Chargers. Retrieved 2014-01-23. 
  12. ^ Swank, Bill (2005). Baseball In San Diego: From The Plaza To The Padres. Arcadia Publishing. p. 89. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°43′14″N 117°9′9″W / 32.72056°N 117.15250°W / 32.72056; -117.15250