Purple Facts & History

Southwest is a diverse high school serving over 1750 students in grade 9-12. The graduating class of 2011 will be 425 students. We have 105 teachers with total staff of 201. The annual building staff and instruction budget is over $10,000,000. In 2010 Newsweek named Southwest as the #1 High School in the state of Minnesota and #115 in the country based on academics. Over 25 difference language groups are spoken here. We offer a full Diploma International Baccalaureate programme. Our attendance rate is 95%. The graduation rate is 98%, with 89% of students moving on to post secondary education. Between 70 and 80% of our students participate in athletics and extra curricular activities. While 30% of our students meet federal poverty guidelines, qualifying them for free or reduced lunch. 

The average 2010 SAT scores for Southwest students/national average: 
CR: 621/500
M: 624/510
W: 602/490

The 2010 ACT composite score comparison of Southwest/National average: 
25.4 / 21.0 

Southwest also boasts of National Merit Scholars: 
2008: 18 commended, 9 semi-finalist and 9 finalist. 
2009: 11 commended, 9 semi-finalist and 9 finalist
2010: 11 commended, 8 semi-finalist and 8 finalist.


Construction in Southwest began in 1938 and opened as a school on September 3, 1940. Initial enrollment was 841 students from Washburn, Edina and Richfield. The first graduating class was in 1942 with 183 students.


In 1956 an addition was added and doubled the size of the original building. This included a vocational wing, classrooms and a gymnasium. The band and music rooms were also added. Also in 1956, Southwest became a 7-12 school with total enrollment of 1400 students.


Southwest Junior High was dedicated on October 20, 1968. The "East" building included thirteen classrooms, graphic arts, a gymnasium, laboratories, a swimming pool and library. The original gym in the main building was remodeled into a 700-seat auditorium. The combined school enrollment was 2,114. The twp programs operated independently for six years. In 1982 Southwest returned to a 9-12 school.

The classrooms in the east wing of the main building were enlarged to become science laboratories in 1999. The renovation included other classrooms, new gymnasium floor and bleachers. The link and common area renovations were completed in 2000 

In 2006 improvements to the physical education and athletic weight room was completed. A new equipment room and weight lifting area was designed in the vocational north end of the main building. In 2007-2008 the entire interior structure of the old (original gym) auditorium was removed starting with the concrete floor and ending with the new roof. The original stage and part of the original gym floor - now the orchestra pit - are all that remain of the previous structure. New audio-video control booth, catwalks, seating and acoustic walls were all part of the renovation. 

Work continues to build out and develop the original small theater - now known as the Black Box theater where student produced and managed productions are held. The Southwest athletic field, track and stadium were last updated in 1986. Like the St. Paul schools, there is a great desire to install an artificial turf to the field that would enable greater use. 

1987 Mascot Change from the Indians to the Lakers

In 1987, Southwest High School was at the forefront of a debate among academic institutions and whether nicknames, mascots and logos from Native Americans were appropriate. 

Phil St. john, a Sioux Nation social worker, led a movement to change Minneapolis mascots after attending a basketball game and seeing a student in Indian dress. 

The Minneapolis Board of Education ruled that nicknames that perpetuate racial or ethnic stereotypes would no longer be allowed in the city schools on May 12, 1987. 

The Southwest student body was involved in choosing the new mascot and change their school nickname from the Inidians to the Lakers. The debate was featured in Sports Illustrated, leading to similar debates across the country. The last class to graduate under the Indian mascot was 1987. The last students to have been Indians graduated in 1990. 

The original Southwest seal - the Indian head logo - was originally designed as it appears in the floor of the main hallway with the addition of the 360-degree circle with words "Southwest High School"


The seal was designed in 1941 by Robert Ahlcrona and further improved by Maurine Chesney. Both were students in the school's third-period advertising art class. The cost of the design and original installation of the logo into the floor was $97.50 and was completed on July 7, 1970. The seal is currently covered by a protective carpet awaiting the funds to be removed and a display case created to save this memory and it's history as a significant part of Southwest history.