Los Altos High School was established in 1954 on the site of an orchard. Initially, Los Altos High School served the mostly white, middle to upper class populations of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. During 1982 redistricting efforts, the district closed its oldest high school, Mountain View High School, which was located on Castro Street in downtown Mountain View. Awalt High School was then renamed Mountain View High School, while Los Altos High School replaced its Knight mascot with the Eagle mascot from the old Mountain View High School. The district reaches from Los Altos through Mountain View to San Francisco Bay in the north.
The two remaining district high schools now draw equally from wealthy and working-class families and have a similar demographic population. Both schools are located near the city border of Los Altos and Mountain View and each has a considerable amount of the "other" city in its attendance area.
In more recent history, Los Altos High underwent a major renovation over the past few years, which has significantly enhanced the campus environment, including a new science and art building and a FieldTurf athletic field.
During the El Niño storms of 1998, a tornado ripped through the quad area of the school. The tornado touched down at 5:05PM on May 4, 1998, near the intersection of El Monte Road and Almond Avenue. It was rated F1 on the Fujita Scale, and was one of two that touched down in the area. The tornado uprooted trees, picked up dumpsters, damaged the tennis court fences, and destroyed the baseball diamond dugout. Damages were estimated at $25,000.
As of the 2003-2004 school year, the enrollment was approximately 1600 students; in the last few years each incoming class has been significantly larger than the outgoing class. In 2006, 83% of students participate in academic, extracurricular and community service clubs. Over 50% of the students participate in an athletic team.
As of 2011, European American students comprise 49% of the population at Los Altos High School, Hispanic and Latino American students comprise 24%, Asian American students comprise 21% and African American students comprise 2%.
Los Altos High School is a gold-certified high school and ranked 337th nationally in 2013 by U.S. News and World Report.
In 2006, City-data deemed Los Altos High School to be the 9th best High School in California, with an API of 797. However, Newsweek grades schools on weighted data and teacher:student ratios, while City-Data merely uses API as a standard.
In 2008, the school's performance fell seven points in the API from the previous year, with a final score of 795. Asians lost their score slightly by five points and while students with disabilities lost 25 points from the previous year, while Hispanics and the economically disadvantaged scored higher than the previous year. However, they passed the Federal "Adequate Yearly Progress" standards.
2009 saw an increase of 30 points in the API for the school, with a 34-point increase for Latino students and 64 for English-Language learners. 825 points is the highest in school history.
Los Altos High School has consistently ranked as one of the top ten high schools in California. API scores for the student body overall have climbed steadily each year from 799 in 2008 to 875 in 2011.
The California Department of Education claims that in 2008-2009, 98% of teachers were fully credentialed—this is higher than the state average. In 2009, Michelle Bissonnette, who taught at Los Altos for 10 years, was selected as one of three "Teaching Ambassador Fellows" to work as a full-time employee of the United States Department of Education for one school year.
Los Altos High School boasts a strong athletic department, performing arts department and a host of student-run clubs.
Los Altos High School requires two years of Physical Education credits in order to graduate. After-school sports each provide one quarter or one semester of credits. Its sports teams participate in the regional SCVAL League. The Track and Field team, especially, has made it to State championships numerous times, most notably first place 40 years ago.
Los Altos High boasts a large music department, with a state of the art music room equipped with reverb devices. The musical ensembles included are Auxiliary Units (also known as Color Guard), Marching band, Jazz band, Chamber Ensemble, String Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, and Concert Band. Los Altos High School also includes Concert Choir and the world-renowned Main Street Singers. The school also hosts a Drama department, the advanced course of which is called Broken Box Theatre Company and performs in the school's Eagle Theater.
The school's world-traveling vocal ensemble, known as the "Main Street Singers", travel around the world on tour every year. They gained international reputation through completing concert travel to 45 countries from six different continents and performing works in twenty languages ranging from Renaissance to Contemporary in over 100 concerts yearly. In 2009, they became the first international organization to travel from Taiwan to Mainland China via the newly implemented Three Links system. Pop singer Aaron Fresh took part of the school's glee and choir program while he attended Los Altos High School.
The High School's Marching band is part of the Western Band Association, which is based in California. The Band competes in the AAA category. In 1997, the LAHS Marching Band received six awards at the state festival. Since then, the band's reputation deteriorated somewhat, and in the 2007 season, they scored last place out of 11 participating bands. 2008 saw a rejuvenation of the school's marching band program, as it won its first sweepstakes award in four years, and placing 7th out of 48 participating bands at Western Band's state preliminaries. In 2011-2012, the Band's show, "Forbidden", won several captions at local competitions, including the highly coveted Sweepstakes award at the Dublin competition. The Marching Band completed its successful season by finishing 6th statewide at the WBA State Championships in Thousand Oaks, CA. They won a total of fifteen trophies and were undefeated in music throughout the entire season. The band's 2012 AA show was entitled "Senses" and their 2013 AAA show "REM." The 2014 AAA show was entitled "House of Cards" and won 1st place at both Gilroy High School and Quest Classic competitions. In 2014, for the first time, the LAHS Marching Band competed in Bands of America regional championships, coming in in 3rd place in the AAA category. The band's AA show from 2015 was entitled "Muse". In 2015, the band came in 3rd place in the AA category at the Western Band Association 1A-2A-3A Class Championships, earning a spot to compete in the 1A-2A-3A Combined Grand Championships. The band went on to place 8th overall in the combined class championships.
Students at Los Altos High School have independently started a club list of over 50 different clubs, including One Dollar For Life, a non-profit organization founded by history and economics teacher Robert Freeman. It also hosts club extensions of many nationally recognized organizations, such as American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, AVID Council, Club Darfur, Future Business Leaders of America, Gay-Straight Alliance, Key Club, Model United Nations, Safe Ride, and Mock Trial. They also have "student unions" of most ethnic and racial groups present in the school. These clubs impact the entire Los Altos community, and in the case of One Dollar For Life and Amnesty International, they impact regions in rural Africa and Haiti, respectively.
The Los Altos Green Team, with the help of Sierra Club officials, urged citizens to sign petitions and presented them to the City Council. This helped create the grassroots for a Los Altos "Cool Cities" campaign to aide the city in becoming more Green; resulting in the city to be included in the Kyoto Protocol through the Mayor's Climate Protection Center. They have also invited an Emmy Award-winning Al Gore-trained speaker to deliver an "update" on An Inconvenient Truth as well as provide tips on making the student's lives more environmentally friendly. They have since started a local sustainable and organic garden and plan to sell subscriptions to local residents.
In addition, class of 2008 and previous president of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, received an award for his efforts in promoting gay rights at a local level; while joining San Jose city's annual gay-pride parade. In 2004, the Alliance petitioned the Los Altos city council to proclaim a Gay Pride Parade in the city's downtown, which resulted in the passage of language which specifically prohibited religious, racial, ethnic or sexual discrimination-related proclamations. The group, along with the support of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and then-Supervisor Tom Ammiano, then petitioned the city council to reverse the law, a move which was unanimously approved in 2006. They then organized a Gay Pride parade in downtown Los Altos, with over 300 in attendance. Due to this event, the County of Santa Clara and multiple local cities declared a gay pride day in honor of the club. In addition, the school sponsors a Day of Silence event annually to combat discrimination against LGBT students.
Los Altos High School shares a Speech and Debate team with Mountain View High School. The team was founded by Charles Dahan in 1999, with Dahan earning nine Tournament of Champions bids during his debate career. In 2008, Daniel Moerner, class of 2009, won the Walter Alan Ulrich Award for Top Speaker in Lincoln-Douglas Debate at the Tournament of Champions. In 2009, he also became the first debater to ever win the Stanford Invitational and Berkeley National Invitational back-to-back in their 20-year history.
The Talon is the school's student-run newspaper which has been nationally recognized by the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association. In 1997, it was honored as one of the NSPA's newspaper pacemakers. In 2009, it placed 10th for the NSPA's national Best in Show award in the Newspaper 17+ pages category. They also won several awards for Features writing, Entertainment Review writing, Photography, and Editorial Cartooning. In 2010, The Talon's website, www.lahstalon.org, placed 8th for the NSPA's Best in Show award for publication websites. In 2011, The Talon's website qualified for the Pacemaker online finalists.Ted Barrett, Major League Baseball umpire.
Steve Centanni, Fox News National Correspondent
Stephen Clark, Olympic gold medal winning swimmer
Juliette Frette, June 2008 Playboy Playmate of the Month, class of 2002.
Tom Harrell, musician, class of 1963.
Willie Howard, NFL football player, class of 1996.
John Brady Kiesling, former U.S. foreign service officer and author. Class of 1975.
Raj Mathai, Emmy Award winning news anchor, Class of 1989.
Theodore Olson, 42nd United States Solicitor General class of 1958.
Nick Swinmurn, founder of Zappos.com
Andrew Arnold Tink Member of Parliament (1987–2007), New South Wales Legislative Assembly, class of 1971.