The History of Columbus High School

Columbus High School is located in the south-eastern area of Downey.  It sits on 23 acres of land.   We share the campus with DUSD’s Transportation Department, Downey Adult School, DUSD Adult Transition Classes, several LA County of Education Programs, including the Medical Treatment Unit, and the City of Downey’s soccer and baseball fields.

Columbus High School occupies 16 classrooms, including one library, one weight room, one computer lab/ classroom, one woodshop/art classroom and one activity room.  We also have two basketball courts and use the softball/baseball fields for PE classes.  We share the auditorium with Adult School.

From its beginnings as land settlements in 1879 to the present day, the city still considers itself as a middle–class community.  The city was named after the first governor of California, John Downey, who was also a major landowner and city developer.    The city’s history includes cattle ranches, farms, orange groves, and then moving to the forefront as a major contributor to the aviation and aerospace industry.   The lunar lander and the space shuttle both had their origins in the city of Downey.

There are two comprehensive high schools, one continuation high school, four middle schools, thirteen elementary schools and one adult school who work seamlessly to make up Downey Unified School District.  The area served by Downey Unified School district is approximately 14 miles in size.  Currently, there are approximately 111,000 people who live in the city of Downey.  The community of Downey has increased its population up until 2005.  In the last five years, there has been a decline in population in the city as well as in its schools.

The public school enrollment as of October 2008 was 22,424 students and another 24,140 enrolled in Adult School.  The district hit an overall high in enrollment in 2004-05 and has decreased in enrollment by approximately .9% since that time.  However, the numbers of high school students has been increasing since the 2004-05 school year by a little over 1% each year.

Columbus High School was established by Downey Unified School district in 1965-66 for 27 students.   At that time, the school was called Central Continuation High School and was located at 11627 Brookshire, on the same property as the district office.    With the expansion and development of the city of Downey, and with other middle schools being built, Columbus High School was moved to the site of Woodruff Middle School.   The name was changed from Woodruff Middle School to Central Continuation High School, which ironically was located at the farthest southeast corner of the city.    In 1976, the school was renamed Christopher Columbus High School after a request from Downey’s UNICO’s Italian American Organization to help support the school.

The principals of Columbus High School have been Arno Peet, Herb Walburg, Kenneth Lopour, Arden Hirschi, Dale Lostetter, Ken Mueller, Alan Layne, Don Peterson, and Gary Ratzke.  Currently, the principal is Kathleen Succa, who claims the major accomplishment of having Columbus High School receive its first, initial WASC accreditation in 2009, and having most recently receive a six-year accreditation in 2013.