In this series of posts, I hope to show Then and Now images Oakland Schools. Along with a bit of history of each school, I highlight.
Note: Piecing together the history of some of the older schools is sometimes tricky. I do this all at home and online — a work in progress for some. I have been updating my posts when I find something new. Let me know of any mistakes or additions.
Skyline High School
Skyline High School is located on a 45-acre (some say 35 acres) campus at the crest of the Oakland hills. The school is near the Redwood Regional Park and has a panoramic (through the trees)view of the San Francisco Bay Area on one side and Contra Costa on the other.
Hill Area High School
Where will Oakland’s proposed new hill-area school be located”Oakland Tribune Sep 05, 1956
Talks about a new “Hill-Area High School began in the early to mid-1950s. After weeks of field trips and meetings the possible sites for the new school were reduced from eight to three.
They finally they decided on a 31-acres site at Skyline Blvd and Fernhoff Road – No 1 above and below.
The new hill area high school costs were expected to be almost $4,000,000, with nearly $3,000,000 earmarked for site development and construction.
For 1,500 students, the plans called for fifty-four classrooms, a library, a cafeteria, a gymnasium, an auditorium, and administrative offices. The number of classrooms would be increased to 67 for 2,000 students.
The Oakland architectural firm of Warnecke and Warnecke were hired to design the new school.
The grading and excavation was complete by July of 1959 at a cost of $182,000
Architects Warnecke and Warnecke estimated the school building would cost $3,650,600 in addition to the money already spent on the site, and development would bring the total to $4,623,301.
Some of the suggestions to cut the cost was.
- Omit a $500,000 auditorium
- Omit the covered walkways for a savings of $97,000
- Substitute 13 portables classrooms for permanent buildings to save $266,800
The contract to build the Hill Area High School was awarded to Branagh and Son, at a cost of $4,140,500 for 50 classrooms.
Construction was set to begin in November of 1959
The school was set to open in the fall of 1961.
Loud protests that the “tentative” boundaries for the new Hill Area High School would keep low income and minority groups prompted the Board of Education to request further study on the matter in January of 1961.`
Representatives of the NAACP told the board members that keeping attendance boundaries in hill area would make the new facility a
“private prep school supported by public funds.”
The existing boundaries of the four high schools in Oakland then had lines extending to the eastern limits of the city allowed for a wide divergence of racial and economic backgrounds.
The proposed boundary for the new school stretched along the top lines of the hills would only allow for “horizontal mobility.”
David P. McCullum, president of the Oakland NAACP, stressed that “Negros would not be the only ones deprived of a chance to attend the new school but that all races in the lower economic group would be cut out.
” It is not just a color problem-it is a total problem.”
Henry J. Kaiser Jr was the chairman of PACE (Oakland’s Public Advisory Committee on Education), and he wrote in a letter to the board of education that.
“This is the time when all of us-the Negro people and the white people-should face common problems together and work them out to our mutual satisfaction, to the end that the community is strengthened and our school children are given the maximum opportunities for development.”
Skyline boundaries don’t just shut out Negroes, but create general “economic” segregation which also affects many white people.
The new attendance boundaries brought charges of gerrymandering.
The Segregation unintentional School Official Decries”April 03, 1962
But today there are many Negro children in junior highs which feed into Skyline High School”Selmer Berg Apr 1962
The discussion on Skyline’s borders went on for a few more years. In 1964 an ‘Open” enrollment plan was proposed, and eventually, it was accepted.
The new boundary did the best job of following present junior high attendance lines, and in giving relief to Castlemont, Fremont, Oakland High and Technical High.
The Name Skyline Wins!
In January of 1961, Dr. George C. Bliss was appointed the first principal of Skyline. Dr. Bliss had with the Oakland schools for 36 years most recently as the principal of Technical High School.
School board members received suggestions that the new Hill Area High school be named Sequoia or Skyline High.
In February of 1961, Oakland’s newest high school had an official name.
The board voted at the regular meeting to call the $4.5 million school “Skyline High School”.
To fill Skyline, they planned on taking the following students from:
- 700 from Oakland
- 400 from Fremont
- 200 from Castlemont
- 125 from Technical
Seniors could stay at their present school and graduate with their class, and junior within the new boundaries also had that choice. Sophomores had no choice. They must go to Skyline.
This meant that some of the star athletes would be leaving their school for Skyline.
Oakland’s starting basketball guard and the best high jumper in track and field were bound for Skyline.
Oakland High was set to lose Paul Berger, their coach of nine years.
Ben Francis was the sophomore starting basketball guard at Oakland High, who must switch to Skyline. Others were Craig Breschi,Glen Fuller, Jim Ida, and Ed Huddleson.
Ben Haywood Oakland’s best high jumper was bound for Skyline.
JUNIOR BEN HAYWOOD WIND FOUR EVENTS
It was announced in April of 1961 that no varsity football would be played the first year at Skyline, by principal Dr. George Bliss.
“Football depends a great deal on size and weight.” the principal said, ” and we’ll be outnumbered two and three to one in seniors by the other schools.”
Sky’s the limit
All we have to do is develop the finest school that’s possible-one that everybody can look up to”Dr. George Bliss – Aug 1961
The formal dedication for the school was held in December of 1961. The ceremony was held in the auditorium, with music provided by the Skyline Concert Band and Choir.
The formal presentation was made by Selmer Berg the Sup. of the Schools with Arch W. Host and Leroy D. Smith accepting on behalf of the students and faculty.
In a surprise feature to the program the auditorium was named the Selmer H. Berg Hall in his hoor.
The school newspaper is the Skyline Oracle and the yearbook is the Olympian. These publications have existed since the early decades of Skyline High history. The participants of each publication are involved by taking the offered courses. The Skyline Oracle has won numerous honors over the years for the quality of its publication.
In January of 1973, an ex-student of Skyline who at the time was AWOL from Fort Ord broke into the 20 Building in search of food or money. He said he threw a lighted match into a can of cleaning fluid. He said he tried to put the fire out but fled and pulled the fire alarm. When the fire department responded, they were unable to find it. Neighbors later saw the flames and called the fire department by this time the 20 Building was gone.
After leaving Skyline, he broke into a church down the hill and was arrested by the police; he had set off the silent alarm. While in police custody, he confessed to starting a fire at Skyline.
Skyline High Today
Skyline High is located at 12250 Skyline Blvd.
Skyline Website – OUSD
- Oakland in Quandary Over Site – Oakland Tribune Sep 05, 1956
- Skyline Blvd. Site – Oakland Tribune Jun 28, 1957
- Site for Hill High School- Oakland Tribune May 12, 1957
- Final Stage – Oakland Tribune May 21, 1958
- Hill High School Plans Speeded Up – Oakland Tribune Oct 31, 1961
- School Bids Bring Savings – Oakland Tribune Nov 03, 1957
- Rising Cost of Skyline High – Oakland Tribune Jul 23, 1959
- Bids for Hill Area – Oakland Tribune Nov 11, 1959
- Fall Opening for School – Oakland Tribune Dec 07, 1960
- Sequoia or Skyline – Oakland Tribune Jan 04, 1961
- Hill Area School Border Protested – Oakland Tribune Jan 11, 1961
- School Boundaries Get Board Study – Oakland Tribune Jan 25, 1961
- New School Library – Oakland Tribune Jan 31, 1960
- Bliss to be Principal – Oakland Tribune Jan 31, 1961
- Name Picked – Oakland Tribune Feb 22, 1961
- Boundaries Set for Sky High – Oakland Tribune Feb 26, 1961
- Stars Bound for Skyline – Oakland Tribune Feb 26, 1961
- Skyline Plans only JV Grid – Oakland Tribune Apr 13, 1961
- Caught in Middle – Oakland Tribune May 12, 1961
- Skyline Bus Takes Get Another Try-Oakland Tribune Jul 12, 1961
- Junior Wins Four Events – Oakland Tribune Mar 03, 1962
- Segregation Unintentional – Oakland Tribune Apr 03, 1962
- School Bias Charge Hit By Judge – Oakland Tribune Apr 06, 1962
- Sky’s the Limit Oakland’s New High School – Oakland Aug 29, 1961
- Dedication Set – Oakland Tribune Nov 27, 1961
- Overflow Crowd – Oakland Tribune Dec 04, 1961
- Skyline Boundary Attacked – Oakland Tribune Dec 20, 1962
- Open Enrollment – Oakland Tribune Apr 29, 1964
- Schools Get Praise, and Scorn is Race Issues – Oakland Tribune Apr 29, 1964
- NAACP Turns Down Enrollment Plan – Oakland Tribune May 13, 1964
- NAACP Hits Open Enrollment Plan – Oakland Tribune May 13, 1962
- 233 Want to Go to Skyline – Oakland Tribune Feb 12, 1965