San Diego High School

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San Diego High School
1405 Park Blvd.


United States
CoordinatesCoordinates: 32°43′14″N 117°9′9″W / 32.72056°N 117.15250°W / 32.72056; -117.15250
TypeComprehensive public high school
School districtSan Diego Unified School District
CEEB code053907 (International Studies)
053209 (Business)
053903 (Science and Technology)
053899 (MVPA)
Color(s)   Royal Blue and White
NewspaperThe Russ
YearbookThe Grey Castle
SDHS 100 building showing the logos of the six small schools

San Diego High School (SDHS) is an urban public high school located on the northern edge of Balboa Park, in San Diego, California, United States.[1] It is the oldest high school in the San Diego Unified School District, one of the oldest public schools in all of California, and 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 donated the lumber to build the school.[2] The school was built in the Italian Villa style with a 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.[3]

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.[3]

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.[2] The new building, designed by F.S. Allen, contained 65 rooms and was built in the 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."[3] 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.[3]

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]

To comply with California legislation in the 1960s that 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.[2] The current school, consisting of four concrete-block buildings with blue trim, was re-dedicated on 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.[3]


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 six 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:[2][4] 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 school in San Diego County and the second highest in the state of California.[5] 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.[6]

In approximately 2009, 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.[7] At the end of the 2014-2015 academic year the arts academy was also closed down. For the 2015-2016 school year 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.[8]

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.[9] The CPA model is a three-year program (grades ten-twelve) structured as a school-within-a-school.[9] The first one, the Academy of Finance, was established in 2007 at the School of Business and Leadership.[10] Two more, the San Diego Medical Technology Academy (MedTech) established in 2011 and the Green Engineering Academy (GeoTech) established 2012 at the School of Science and Technology, with the first classes graduating in 2014 and 2015 respectively.[10] The curriculum at Medtech Academy is based on the Biomedical Sciences program by Project Lead The Way (PLTW).[11]

Balboa Stadium[edit]

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.[12] 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 San Diego High School graduation ceremonies.

Section, state, and national titles[edit]

  • High School Football National Championship: 1916, 1955
  • High school baseball national champions: 1921
  • CIF football state champions: 2018[13]
  • CIF San Diego Section champions, boys' basketball: 1965, 1967, 1975 (D2A), 2008 (D1), 2017, 2018 (D4)
  • CIF San Diego Section champions, girls' basketball: 2020

Miscellaneous history[edit]

  • San Diego High School's mascot is the Cavers — originally the Cavemen.[14]
  • 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 and 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. They beat Cleveland again in front of 13,000 fans.
  • 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.
  • Mia Labovitz In 1987 became the first female in the nation to score multiple points during a Varsity football game. In 1988, she kicked the game winner (3-0) against St. Augustine High School (San Diego), becoming the first female to score all of her team's points in a contest. She would finish her career with 4 FG and 8 PATs.
  • 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 auditorium.
  • Kate Sessions, considered the "mother of Balboa Park," taught at San Diego High in 1884.
  • San Diego High claims that, in 1922, its cheerleading squad was the first high school or college to use female cheerleaders.

Notable alumni and faculty[edit]


  1. ^ "San Diego's oldest high school could stay in Balboa Park rent free for another 99 years". San Diego Union-Tribune. 2019-09-27. Retrieved 2019-12-29.
  2. ^ a b c d "San Diego High School's History". Archived from the original on 2014-02-03. Retrieved 2014-01-23.
  3. ^ a b c d e "San Diego High School District and Balboa Park" (PDF). Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  4. ^ Magee, Maureen (2005-03-21). "Benefits of specialized schools may take years to measure". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 2013-01-24.
  5. ^ "NEWSWEEK COVER: America's Best High Schools, 2006". PR Newswire. April 30, 2006. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  6. ^ "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.
  7. ^ "Board Agenda Alert: May 14, 2013". San Diego United Parents for Education. 2013-05-14. Archived from the original on February 2, 2014. Retrieved 2014-01-23.
  8. ^ Magee, Maureen (June 12, 2015). "San Diego High's big break up on the mend". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  9. ^ a b "California Partnership Academies (CPA)". California Department of Education. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  10. ^ a b "California Partnership Academies Directory". California Department of Education. 2013-05-08. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  11. ^ "PLTW Schools". Project Lead The Way. Retrieved 2014-01-23.
  12. ^ "Chronology 1959-1969". San Diego Chargers. Archived from the original on 2009-10-12. Retrieved 2014-01-23.
  13. ^ "San Diego Cavers bring home first state football title". Fox News San Diego. December 20, 2018. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  14. ^ Swank, Bill (2005). Baseball In San Diego: From The Plaza To The Padres. Arcadia Publishing. p. 89. ISBN 9780738534121.
  15. ^ "Dave Grayson, San Diego prep and AFL star, dies at 78". Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  16. ^ "Gregory Peck gets its start right here". San Diego Union Tribune. 2002-04-05. Retrieved 2019-01-30.

External links[edit]