Sonora High School was originally built on forty-two acres on the eastern side of La Habra and opened to ninth and tenth graders in 1966, becoming a full, four-year senior high school in 1968. The school garnered a number of architectural design awards at its inception, with its nearly entirely indoor, but very open, classroom arrangement. This design, at the time, was considered the epitome of a learning environment that would meet the needs of students, staff and the community while maximizing opportunities for student learning. Ten wings, a gymnasium/locker room/pool complex, a food services area, a lecture hall/amphitheatre arrangement, and the school offices all surround three large indoor “commons” areas, in the middle of which is the library/media center. As times and educational philosophies changed, the school began adding doors to the various classrooms in the wings. Today, nearly all classrooms have doors, with the exception of the 420 Science Wing. Most staff feel that this has enhanced the ability of their students to concentrate on their learning, paving the way for higher achievement.
Nevertheless, the indoor environment overall has been most favorable from the point of view of safety and togetherness. With limited points of entry to the campus, it is much easier to keep track of both students and visitors. Also, the somewhat forced togetherness has led to the distinctive sense of community among the students, staff and parents at the school. This pervasive culture has no doubt been a major factor in the recognition by the state as a California Distinguished School four times, in 1994, 1996, 2000 and 2007.