The home of the Long Beach Renaissance High School For The Arts is a location steeped in the educational history of Long Beach . RHSA is the newest-old school in the Long Beach Unified School District. By the summer of 1896, the schools of Long Beach were thought to be large enough to justify the establishment of the first school administrative position. After considering the qualifications of 17 interested applicants, the Board of Trustees selected Howard L. Lunt to fill the dual role of high school principal and supervising principal for the total district. Mr. Lunt was the first principal of Long Beach High School . After one year, this position was divided so that Mr. Lunt could devote himself to his duties as high school principal while D. H. Chaplin became the supervising principal for the lower schools.
The original school on the corner of 8th Street and American Avenue was known as Long Beach High School and later American Avenue School . American Avenue was later renamed Long Beach Boulevard . This school was funded by a $10,000 bond, which was passed by the voters in 1897. This was the first locally built high school opened in Los Angeles County outside of the City of Los Angeles .
When the school was dedicated in May 1898, County Superintendent of Schools Riley confessed that when he had been petitioned three years before to organize a Long Beach high school he had undertaken it "with sincere misgivings." "The mistake I made," said Superintendent Riley, "was in assuming Long Beach to be an ordinary community."
The Long Beach High School of 1898, the school at 8th and Long Beach Boulevard offered a limited program that was primarily aimed at preparing students for college. So satisfactory was the quality of instruction that on July 9, 1904, the University of California accredited the high school to enter college with out passing special examinations. By 1905 when high school enrollment had climbed to 271 students with a faculty of 11, courses were introduced in manual training, cooking, sewing and commercial subjects.
By 1910 the City of Long Beach was the home to 18,000 people. American Avenue High School , was said to be "bulging at the seams" despite many additions to the original structure. Local citizens who visited Los Angeles Polytechnic High School wanted a similar school in Long Beach . Such a school, it was argued, would appeal to many young people who had not been reached by the more traditional type of program. Long Beach Poly High School opened its doors in September of 1911. American Avenue High School became American Avenue Grammar School.
In 1916 the voters of Long Beach rejected a bond issue which would have provided funds for the building of a junior high school. However, when fire destroyed the old American Avenue Grammar School during the Christmas holiday of 1918 a new bond issue was passed for the construction of a new junior high school, known as George Washington Junior High School.
This school was destroyed by the 1933 earthquake. The Long Beach earthquake hit on March 10, 1933 at 5:55 A.M. killing 52 people and injuring 700 more. George Washington Junior High School was completely relocated being moved from 8th Street and American Avenue to 14th Street and Cedar Avenue.
The Trade Extension Evening High School, which had been organized three years earlier in temporary quarters at State Street (now Pacific Coast Highway), and Cedar Avenue was moved to 8th Street and American Avenue sharing the new location of John Dewey High School. John Dewey was founded in 1925 at another location. This was a big step toward the broadening of a vocational education program for adults, which was to become increasingly important with the outbreak of World War II.
By 1940 John Dewey School , formerly a vocational junior senior high school, took over the Continuation High School . This type of school functioned to provide for the part-time school attendance required for working students under eighteen years of age.
During the 1942-1943 school year the John Dewey School was transformed into a vocational education facility for defense workers. This was the third such school of its kind. These training facilities, redesignated in 1943 as War Production Training Centers, accounted for more than 1 per cent of all training for wartime occupations given anywhere in the United States. In 1956 the term Vocation Education was dropped from the title.
In 1966 the school on the corner of 8th Street and Long Beach Boulevard received another name change. The school was named Will J. Reid High School ,after oilman and conservationist Will J. Reid. Mr. Reid was born in North Dakota in 1910 and founded Hancock Oil Company.
The newest school to occupy the corner of 8th Street and Long Beach Boulevard is Renaissance High School for the Arts, a visual and performing arts magnet high school, established in January 2004. Renaissance Arts provides students with both a challenging visual, performing arts program and a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. At Renaissance we believe that "Success is an Art!"