South High School (Denver)

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For schools of the same name, see South High School (disambiguation).
South High School
1700 East Louisiana Avenue, Denver, Colorado
Coordinates 39°41′32″N 104°57′57″W / 39.69229°N 104.96585°W / 39.69229; -104.96585Coordinates: 39°41′32″N 104°57′57″W / 39.69229°N 104.96585°W / 39.69229; -104.96585
Type Public
Established 1893
School district Denver Public Schools
Dean Adam Kelsey,Pablo Joucovsky
Principal Kristin Waters Ph.D.[1]
Staff 52[1]
Faculty 70[1]
Grades 9-12
Enrollment 1392[2]
Number of students 1392[1]
Color(s)          Purple and White
Athletics 4A[2]
Athletics conference Denver
Mascot Gargoyle/Rebels
Newspaper The Gargoyle

South High School is a high school in the Washington Park neighborhood on the south side of Denver, Colorado. It is part of Denver Public Schools.


In 1893, high school classes were established in two rooms of the Grant school (now Grant Middle School). By 1907, an addition had to be added because of overcrowding. In January 1925, there were 800 students in the senior high school section and more space was desperately needed. A bond issue was voted into effect in October 1925, and funds for a new school were raised. The cost of construction was $1,252,000; the building was intended to last a century.

1,392 students were enrolled in the 2009-2010 school year.

Using federal government guidelines, 70.55% of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.[3]


South High School was designed by the architectural firm of Fisher & Fisher in the time's popular Romanesque style. Sculptor Robert Garrison created many of the building's adornments, including the 3 foot (1 meter) tall gargoyle above the building's main entrance; the symbolic protector of South inspired by a gargoyle at the Italian Cathedral of Spoleto. On either side of the main entrance, bas relief figures of teachers hold in their hands creatures representing examinations who are attempting to devour students. On the door are friezes of Faculty Row (a scene resembling the Last Supper, with the principal in the center) and Animal Spirits (frolicking student-like creatures).[4]

Although there are some differences, South's Clock Tower is thought to be a replica of the one at Santa Maria in Cosmedin. After the tower's original roof deck began to leak, a State Historical Fund grant was secured to replace the roof and update the electrical work.[5]

Many of the changes to the building have been to subdivide former study halls and repurpose other rooms into usable classroom space. The boys' gym, or North Gym, had a balcony allowing for spectator basketball games removed in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the addition of the auxiliary gym, the girls' locker rooms and the new JROTC offices. In 1964 the southwest wing was added, followed in 1989 by a new gymnasium. Thus completing an expansion planned before World War II but never realized because of the rationing and shortages due to the war.

In 1992, South High School was designated as a National Historic Landmark.[citation needed]

Students & academics[edit]

South High school offers many Advanced placement courses, that will prepare a student for college as well as offering college credit in the following subjects: AP English Literature & Comp, AP English Language & Comp, AP European History, AP Art History, AP American History, AP Political Science, AP U.S. Government, AP Calculus, AP Chemistry & Lab, AP Biology & Lab, AP Spanish Language and AP Studio Art. South offers many advanced (X) courses and honors courses as well as many elective art, music and physical education classes. The school makes it easy for students to plan for college by offering a college summit course, and a "Future Center", sponsored by the Denver Scholarship Foundation. The Future Center provides students help with anything regarding colleges (applications, how to get financial aid etc.)South is the first battalion in the Denver Public Schools JROTC program. The program is run by Retired First Sergeant Blanton and Retired Colonel Paul Patrick.


South High School was one of 16 schools nationwide selected by the College Board for inclusion in the EXCELerator School Improvement Model program beginning the 2007-2008 school year. The project was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Alumni association[edit]

South High School has the most active alumni association of all the public high schools in Denver. South High Alumni and Friends, Inc (SHAFI) has office and museum space in the basement of the high school, in what was once a classroom and the gun range for the JROTC program. In recent years the alumni association has been responsible for the restoration of the clock tower and new flag pole.

Among its activities SHAFI maintains a database of all graduates of South High School, is building a database of faculty and staff of the school, publishes a newsletter several times a year for its members, and maintains a school museum. Due to its prominence as a South Denver landmark the museum has also become the repository for Washington Park, and surrounding neighborhood, history, artifacts and memorabilia. It has also serves as a repository for the memorabilia of the middle school and elementary schools that feed into the high school.


When Denver Public Schools named its four cardinal direction high schools (East, West, North and South) each took a mascot and imagery associated with that direction. For example, West High School took the Cowboy as its mascot.

South High School took imagery from the civil war, specifically from the Confederate States of America. This included taking the Johnny Reb head as its mascot, and using the Confederate Flag to a lesser extent. The imagery was incorporated into the name of the yearbook, The Johnny Reb, (changing it from The Tower Book) and school newspaper, The Confederate.

The images and mascot began to cause controversy in the late 1970s. By 1980, South's first African American principal, Harold Scott, suggested that the mascot be changed to the Penguin. He did not anticipate the attachment the student body had to the name "Rebel" nor the furor that ensued and the suggestion was dropped.

South High (Denver) Mascot Logo

Gradually, due to the growing change in public attitudes the use of the Confederate Flag would fall from use. The school's yearbook and newspaper became known as the Gargoyle. Even the Johnny Reb Head would be seen less and less. As use of the Johnny Reb imagery declined, the school often used a stylized "S" logo similar to the Superman logo (but in purple and white, instead of red and yellow).

During the 2007-2008 school year the student body began discussing changing the mascot. They eventually decided on a gargoyle with the school's famous clock tower in the background. On February 19, 2009, the students made a presentation to the Denver Public School board asking for the change, which was granted. In a compromise with school alumni, the name "Rebel" was kept.

There is still some controversy over whether the new mascot is a griffin or a gargoyle. Another Denver Public School, Grant Middle School, claimed the griffin a decade or so before, after it was forced to change its mascot from the Blue Devil.

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d South High School School Accountability Report 2005-2006 School Year. Colorado Department of Education. December 12, 2006. Accessed January 15, 2007.
  2. ^ a b Colorado High School Activities Association. Profile for Denver South High School. Accessed 15 January 2007.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Thomas J. Noel, Guide to Colorado Historic Places: Sites Supported by the Colorado Historical Society's State Historical Fund, Englewood, Colorado: Westcliffe, 2006, ISBN 978-1-56579-493-1, pp. 151–52.
  5. ^ Miller, Lyle. "Supporting History: Making Time for Preservation". Colorado State Historical Fund, October 2001. Accessed January 15, 2007.

External links[edit]