Spanish teacher Sadie Sattler leads her students in a lesson on Oct. 1. Sattler’s largest class this year has 35 students; so many that student seating stretches to the door of the classroom

Molly House and Nouryani Saleh, Staff reporters

As Cleveland remains the only option high school in the district that focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), it continues to attract students from around the city. For the first time in since the STEM program was implemented in 2010, the school is nearing its capacity, and another 100 students are waiting to enroll. The school’s popularity is creating crowded classrooms and hallways, as well as a higher student-to-teacher ratio.

Incoming freshmen are largely why Cleveland is expanding in size. Each year, the number of ninth graders grows, with students now coming from Denny, Boren STEM K-8 and Jane Adams middle schools. In the past, ninth graders have mainly come from Cleveland’s feeder schools – Mercer, Aki Kurose and Southshore.

Ninth grade counselor Napsiyah Sallee has witnessed this growth first hand. She has noticed the increase of more students coming to Cleveland over her five years as a counselor.

“We advocated for another counselor, and it took three years of advocacy,” Sallee said.

Sallee is referring to Claire Abe, the counselor for SoED upperclassmen. Abe was hired last school year as the ninth-grade counselor. Before she came on board, Sallee and Avery Kamau, the SoLS counselor for upperclassmen, both had a caseload of more than 400 students.

“That really lessened our caseload, so it was more manageable,” said Sallee.

Sophomore Ethan Chen attributes Cleveland’s growth to the interest in the STEM program.

“Living in the Seattle area, we have many corporations like Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft – those all involve things like STEM,” he said.

Chen acknowledges there is a downside of the growing number of students at Cleveland. In the first couple of days of school, he noticed it was harder to get to his classes. As he tried to navigate from the gym to the third floor of Building 2, Chen encountered a large group of students trying to get through the doorways of the second building. The bottleneck can lead to more students being tardy to class.

It is not just the traffic in the hallways that has Chen concerned; it is also the traffic on the street.

“We’ll leave the house at 7:40 a.m.,” Chen said. “That’s before there’s all this traffic on 15th Avenue South … That’s the reason why we leave early – to avoid the traffic.”

Sophomore Nathan Ujano also finds transportation to be a bit of a hassle. Ujano, who plays JV Ultimate Frisbee, said getting to practices at the Van Asselt field on the Metro has been difficult. Instead of waiting at the bus stop conveniently located outside the school, Ujano walks one or two blocks to another stop to avoid the large group of students also waiting to catch the bus. This way, he doesn’t have to stand in a cramped space or wait for a second or third bus to come because the first was too full.

The Class of 2023 prepares for the start of Freshman Orientation on Sept. 3, in the gym. This is one of Cleveland’s largest freshmen classes, with more students coming from non-neighborhood schools like Denny, Boren STEM K-8 and Jane Adams middle schools.

Students are not the only ones feeling the effects of Cleveland’s rising population. Teachers are having to adapt to bigger class sizes, and they sometimes have to adjust their teaching style because of it.

Spanish teacher Sadie Sattler has seen the impact of this population increase first hand. There are more students in her classes, Spanish I and III. Sattler’s largest class this year has 35 students.

“Just having that many students, it’s really hard for me to move through the class and be able to respond to people’s concerns,” Sattler said.

Studies have shown that students learn better in small classes. Sattler’s situation is not unique; some Humanities classes have more than 30 students. Math teacher Edson Calaunan biggest class consists of 34 students with an average of about 30. Last year, most classes hovered around 28 students.

Calaunan said the rising class sizes are having a “big impact,” because he has to spread himself to more students.

“The challenge is making sure I … have a meeting with every student,” Calaunan said.

Sattler has also shifted her teaching to make sure all students’ needs are being met.

“It changes in just that I need to be pretty patient with how I approach a topic or a task,” she said.

While teaching a big class seems daunting, Sattler’s positivity and optimism helps her to be successful no matter the class size.

“It is really fun to have a lot of students because it gives students a lot of opportunities to talk with different people,” she said. “I enjoy the variety … It’s helpful for that, but it is very challenging.”

Part of the reason for Sattler’s large class sizes is the loss of a full-time Spanish teacher due to budget cuts. Once the school district is able to evaluate the number of students at each school, Cleveland may be able to add additional staff based on enrollment. For every extra 30 students, a full-time position can be added. More students also means the possibility for more funding.

“I’m hoping that if we get the opportunity to add another Spanish teacher, that’s the decision we make,” Sattler said.

While the bigger classes and crowded hallways might seem like negatives, it’s important to reflect on why more students are clamoring to come to Cleveland.

“I definitely think it’s what we have to offer,” Calaunan said. “We do school in such a different way, which is what drew me here … When you’re doing something interesting, when you’re doing something innovative with your classes, more people will want to come.”

K-8 and Jane Adams middle schools