Its first year, San Mateo High School was located in the Dixon Cottage on Ellsworth Avenue. The faculty was composed of A.G. Van Gorder, Principal, and two assistant teachers. School was opened on September 15, 1902, with an enrollment of 27 students.
The following year, the school outgrew the cottage, and the school board purchased St. Margaret’s estate. Classes were conducted in this building from 1903 until 1911. Although the school building was considerably damaged in the earthquake of 1906, no class time was lost. The building was one of the first to be repaired after the earthquake, and by 1907, there were 90 students enrolled. In 1906, all departments were authorized by the University of California at Berkeley, and since then, San Mateo High School has been recognized as a leading institution of learning in this community. In 1991, the school was named a National Distinguished Blue Ribbon school by the United States Department of Education. In 2005, it was recognized with a Gold Standard Award for Academic Excellence by California Business for Education Excellence (C.B.E.E.) in conjunction with the California State University system. The award recognizes ten high schools which have shown measurable gains and strong academic performance by preparing students for college and the workforce while showing evidence of reducing achievement gaps between various subgroups of students over time.
The school moved to Baldwin Avenue in 1911 and remained there until 1927, when the present day San Mateo High School was built at Delaware and Poplar. The new facility followed the architectural model of Henry the Eighth’s Hampton Court in England. The school was structurally reinforced for earthquake safety in 1934-35 and entirely rebuilt for earthquake safety again in 2005.
Efforts to improve the school’s educational facilities, while preserving its unique heritage, are ongoing. The school’s excellent Visual and Performing Arts Department shares its beautiful Performing Arts Center with county-wide performing arts groups. The Performing Arts Center, which seats 1600, is the premier performing arts facility in the county. The smaller Flex Theatre was built with District and Drama booster funds in 1993.
The library has always been one of the most magnificent and unique in the area, with its ornate fireplace and high ceiling. During the 2005 rebuilding process, the original library was recreated, maintaining its signature fireplace and mantel and high ceilings. It offers a panoramic view of the center courtyard of the school.
The newly built Merv Griffin Quad sits squarely in the center of the campus and student life at San Mateo High. It includes an amphitheatre built in the Greek style and the Thomas Mohr clock tower, named after a longtime district superintendent and reminiscent of the tower and chimes that were removed from the building during the 1934-35 structural reinforcements. This beautiful and welcoming courtyard is a popular gathering place for students during lunchtime and rallies.
Since the 2002 Centennial, more improvements include transformation of the main athletic stadium with all-weather surfaces for football and soccer and an 8-lane all-weather track; remodeling of the swimming pool in 2003-05; an expanded weight room; and the building of a joint-use Community Gym housing wrestling, dance rooms and a full-court basketball area.
San Mateo High School is a relatively new facility, having been rebuilt from 2000-2005. The new buildings are designed to integrate state-of-the-art technology with design and architecture of the original buildings. Our athletic facilities include a main gymnasium and a small gymnasium, a heated outdoor pool, an artificial turf field and an all-weather track. On an average day, over 1,600 students, staff, and community members use our facilities.
There is wireless access throughout the San Mateo High School campus. In addition to a computer lab in the school library, the school has three computer labs: one mac lab for Journalism, Yearbook, Digital Photography and Art and Multimedia classes and two PC labs for teacher/class use. Students and teachers have access to these labs with Internet access throughout the school day. There are twelve mobile lab carts available for special programs such as Intensive Math and English support classes and Special Education. Each classroom is equipped with Internet access for teacher and student use as well as a Liquid Crystal Display (L.C.D.) projector with remote and document camera.
In 2008, San Mateo High School wrote and was awarded a Career Technical Education Facilities Grant for a new Biotechnology facility in the amount of $3 million that was matched with Measure M funds. The Biotechnology facility officially opened in December 2010. The Performing Arts Theater Renovation, an 18 month project, began in December 2011 and was completed in October 2013. In July 2012, the turf field was replaced. In the summer of 2014, the stadium went through a bleacher modernization project; bleachers were refurbished or replaced and a press box and handicap access were added. By the end of 2012, solar panel installation in the main parking lot was completed. During the spring 2015, Measure O funds were used to renovate the M building. Two new modern art classrooms and a gallery were created, along with three general education classrooms, a multipurpose room, and a computer lab were added to accommodate future population growth. Every summer, the whole facility is cleaned and repairs are made so that the school community is welcomed back to a new school year.