Local school districts spend thousands on graduation venues

ABC-7 Listens: Local school districts spend thousands on graduation venues
EL PASO, Texas -

The costs of a high school graduation can quickly add up as many parents are required to pay for a cap and gown, flowers, and sometimes, a plane ticket for visiting relatives.

Students also invest a great deal of time and money into preparing for the ceremony, but few beg to ask the question: How much does it cost for a school district?

The most expensive cost for public schools to bear is -- without question -- the venue. Several schools choose to have graduations in their own gymnasiums.

However, there are six school districts in the El Paso/Las Cruces area that pay for students to graduate from the historic Don Haskins Center.

Students from El Paso Independent School District, Ysleta Independent School District, Socorro Independent School District, Gadsden Independent School District, Clint Independent School District and Canutillo High School walk through the venue while family members eagerly wait for their new grads in orange-colored seats.

The districts don't find out the exact bill until after the ceremony is over. 

However, each district will likely pay at least $10 thousand dollars to use the venue, according to estimates based on quotes from recent years.

Canutillo School District paid the least with only one school graduating, Canutillo High School. In 2016, the district paid $11,806 for the space, said Liza Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the district.

El Paso Independent School District will pay the most, with 12 total ceremonies. The district will pay around $5,200 for each ceremony, rounding up to about $62,400. EPISD has a contract with the Don Haskins Center, said Gustavo Reveles, a spokesman for the district.

Melissa Martinez, a spokeswoman for EPISD, said that her district's high schools just don't have the space to accommodate all the family members that want to attend graduation.

"You don't want to just bring your parents," Martinez said. "You want to bring your grandparents and your tias and your tios and extended family."

Martinez also said being in the college venue also encourages students to pursue higher education.

"It gets them in the mindset," Martinez said. "You're ending one milestone and hopefully launching onto another

Tony Olivas proudly waited to enter the Don Haskins Center to watch his grandson, Daniel graduate from Canutillo High School. The grandfather was eager to get through the doors of the venue.

"It is a very special place because of the name that this center has," Olivas said.

When he asked how much he thought the venue charged the district, Olivas said he didn't know, "but it is worth every penny."

Lola Cuellar is the proud mother of Anita Cuellar, who will enter the navy after graduation.

She said the venue was worth the price because "it has a lot of historic value to El Paso."

Cuellar estimated the price tag was around $50,000. But watching her daughter graduate? Priceless.

"It's one of the highlights of my life," Cuellar said.

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