Redondo Union High School: A story of renovation, modernization, and growth
Major renovation projects for athletic programs are almost always complicated projects.
Redondo Union High School (Redondo Beach, Calif.) began the process about 10 years ago. In an added twist, the school changed athletic directors shortly after the project was underway.
Around 2008, Redondo Union received a grant for about $90 million, with about $45 million earmarked for athletics. The previous athletic director left in 2010, and Andrew Saltsman took over as the renovation ramped up.
The money went toward new locker rooms, a new gym, the remodel of an existing gym, a new aquatics center, and several other major and minor modifications across the campus.
Of the many concerns Saltsman has to track, one of them surrounds coordinating with coaches and school officials on the scheduling of practice and event venues so the athletic teams don’t miss a beat.
“Our water polo and swimming teams had to travel to another school site to find some pool time, and wrestling had to go to another school for a period of time,” Saltsman says. “They did the construction and renovations in stages so we could schedule around some of it, but there were always some challenges with walkways and getting around in addition to finding time at alternate facilities. We had to move some people around, but at least we have two gyms. While one gym was being built, the other was being used, and vice versa.”
Redondo Union has become a force in California athletics. The girls’ volleyball team won state titles in 2014 and 2015, the boys’ and girls’ water polo teams each won their first California Interscholastic Federation titles under Saltsman’s watch, and the baseball team also won its first CIF title in 2015.
“We’ve had a lot of first-timers recently,” Saltsman said. “Baseball started in 1915 and we won our first CIF title in 2015, so that was a pretty historic year and pretty cool to win it 100 years later.”
Strong Academics Make For A Strong Athletics Program
Redondo Union emphasizes school first and sports second, and Saltsman can point to the academic performance of Redondo Union athletics. Student-athletes average between a 3.3-3.4 GPA while non-athletes average between a 3.1-3.2 GPA.
The more [student-athletes] get involved in campus and in life, the more it shows academically that they strive for greater advancements.
Redondo Union High School Athletic Director
“We had a number of coaching changes take place since I’ve gotten here, and I think that’s helped quite a bit as well,” Saltsman said.
Redondo Union also offers a number of Advanced Placement courses that aren’t available at other high schools. Among its 2017 AP students, 84% scored a 3 or higher on AP tests compared to California’s 62% average and a 60% global average.
Factors in Expansion and Enrollment Growth
A combination of changes have contributed to Redondo Union’s recent uptick in success: the upgraded facilities, a new principle, the improvement of specialty programs like STEM and health. All factors have led to a higher attendance and retention rate.
Due to its position, Redondo Union now shares students with Mira Costa High School. Once students graduate from eighth grade, they can choose to go to Mira Costa or Redondo Union. Out of 125-150 students, Redondo Union was getting three to five of them per year. After the facilities upgrades and improvements, Redondo Union gets 50-60% of the graduating students.
Another factor in the school’s growth has to do with the age-old real estate motto of “location, location, location.”
“We’re seeing a big bump in our attendance because people are moving to Redondo Beach in droves,” Saltsman said. “When I started eight years ago we were barely at 2,200 kids. Now we’re at 3,000. Adding 100 students every year is a significant jump.
“Our district has put forth such an amazing effort to modernize not only our high school, but all schools in the district,” he said. “It was important to have new facilities to pair with rising academics and a rejuvenated community so it could all come together at the same time for us.”