Belmont High School
Belmont High School opened in 1923 in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles. The 14.7 acre campus is bordered by West Second Street and Beverly Boulevard on the north and south, and by Loma Drive and Witmer Street on the west and east.
In the 1990s, the school was one of the most crowded in the district with student enrollment over 5,000, making it California’s largest high school. By the mid-2000s, the high school saw its enrollment decline due to a district-wide building campaign and restructuring of area schools into small learning communities.
Belmont High School garnered national attention for the role it, along with four other Los Angeles high schools, played in the East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts (Blowouts) of March 1968.
Belmont High opened in 1923 to a student population of 500. Perched atop what was then known as Crown Hill in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles, the campus was influenced by East Coast college design, incorporating courtyards, arcades, a bell tower, and school buildings clad in what locals referred to as “Belmont brick.” In the late 1960s, some of the brick buildings and the bell tower were demolished, citing safety concerns.
Architects J.E. Stanton and William F. Stockwell designed a prominent four-story concrete classroom building to replace an existing classroom building, library, and administrative offices. During this time, a rotunda, faced with brick salvaged from the original buildings and featuring a floor embedded with time capsules, was added as an additional courtyard space. A mosaic mural by artist Joseph Young is on a rear exterior wall of the main building. The original West Wing Classroom Building and Auditorium have been preserved and were refaced in stucco over the years. Belmont underwent additional modernization in 2005 that included ADA and other building upgrades.
Beginning in the 1980s, overcrowding required a year-round schedule and extensive busing out of thousands of neighborhood students to other schools. In 2008, the first two LAUSD Pilot Schools opened on the campus of Belmont High. Today, Belmont High School hosts three Small Learning Communities within the Belmont Zone of Choice, a small learning community of autonomous schools within LAUSD.
Sal Castro began his first regular teaching position at Belmont High in 1963. He would soon be transferred to Lincoln High, where he played an influential role in the 1968 East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts (Blowouts). In 1973, he returned to teach at Belmont, where he remained until his retirement in 2004.
1968 East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts (Blowouts) and Belmont High School
Belmont High School was not among the original four schools that organized the 1968 East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts, but students nonetheless walked out to protest conditions on March 7, 1968. Soon after students walked out, they formed their own Blowout Committee and walked out again on March 8, along with the other schools.
At Belmont, Principal Ernest Naumann called in the police and tried to prevent students from walking out by going on the intercom and telling teachers to lock their doors and keep students in their classrooms. As was the case with Roosevelt High, police officers arrested and assaulted many students who participated in the protests.
At a special LAUSD meeting on March 11, 1968, student body representatives from the Walkout schools, including Belmont High, spoke before the Board and presented the students’ list of demands.