Cleveland High School graduated 423 students at commencement exercises on Friday, May 28. That number is a record not only for Cleveland HS but for any school district in Liberty County, and it beats last year’s previous record of 393, also set by Cleveland High School. Another 83 Cleveland HS students graduated through the District’s alternative school at Douglass Learning Academy.
Just a decade ago, the graduating class size hovered at around 200 to 250 graduates, a number rivaled only by Dayton High School, which had 312 graduates this year. With the Colony Ridge developments south of Plum Grove continuing to bring in hundreds of students every year, enrollment is projected to continue rising, said Superintendent Chris Trotter.
According to Trotter, the District’s demographers have made accurate projections thus far.
“We will probably break 500 graduates next year,” said Trotter. “We are projected to start the next school year with 2,800 high school students and finish the year with 3,000. The following year we are projected to start with 2,800 and end with 3,000 students. Colony Ridge is selling around 300 lots every weekend. They are not all moving in right away but it’s still a high number.”
The District’s future plans include a new high school in the Plum Grove area but currently there is no funding for such a plan. In the event, the board decides to authorize a bond election in the future, it would still take months for an election and another 2 or more years for construction. So for now, Cleveland ISD will keep striving to accommodate all students at the recently-expanded high school in Cleveland.
High School Principal Kristie Dietrich, who has been with Cleveland ISD for 13 years, added, “To give you an idea of how fast we are growing, we are losing 400 seniors roughly and gaining 800 freshman in the next school year.”
Despite the obvious challenges of educating such a great number of students, such as adjusting classroom spaces, managing ever-expanding bus routes and recruiting enough teachers for all classes, Dietrich said the District chooses to focus on the positives.
“We don’t focus on obstacles. We focus on opportunities. Where others might make excuses for the growth, the pandemic or other things that have created hardships, we do not do that. We are committed to high levels of learning,” Dietrich said.
Even on the last day of school, Cleveland ISD hoped to inspire its graduates by having Lone Star College, Texas Workforce and military recruiters available to discuss career options.
“We wanted to make sure everyone had a plan for after graduation. Every one of our students needs to know about all the opportunities that are out there,” she said.