Clovis High School opened its doors in 1899. From its rented space on the second floor of the Clovis Grammar School, Clovis High welcomed its first class comprised of 17 students. In 1902, the first graduates of Clovis High School received their diplomas—all two of them. Emory Reyburn and Robert Lee Brown were the two students fortunate enough to be allowed to finish their education at Clovis High School instead of being pulled back to work on family farms.
Above: Clovis Grammar School c. 1925. Picture courtesy of California History and Genealogy Room, Fresno County Public Library
In 1903, Clovis High School moved to its first independent home on the corner of Fifth and Osmun. A school bond passed by the voting public, made construction of the new wooden building a reality; a relationship that would prove crucial as the school and the district continued to expand. Gold and white became the school colors and the new classes of Clovis High School worked each day to embody their motto, “Excelsior”, meaning “ever onward and upward”. Onward and upward, it was. By 1907, the graduating class was up to 11 students and the process of erecting more buildings to make room for the additional students began.
Above: Clovis High School c. 1908. Picture Courtesy of Clovis Unified District Archives
By 1916, Clovis High School was home to more than 150 students who were quickly running out of room. However, with the country in the throes of World War I, taxpayers could not handle the burden of another school bond to build a new school. As a result, Clovis High School remained in their undersized wooden schoolhouse until September 1920 when they moved in to what some have called, “the most elegant public and historic structure in the City of Clovis.” The new, two-storied, reinforced concrete building, located at the same corner of Fifth and Osmun was a modern marvel capable of holding Clovis High School’s ever-expanding student population. By 1937, there were 500 students and the 5.2-acre campus was benefiting from funding provided by President Roosevelt’s federal Work Projects Administration (WPA). These funds helped build a brand new science building theater. The theater, today known as the Mercedes Edwards Theater, still houses Clovis High School theatrical and dance productions.
Above: A watercolor rendering of the second Clovis High School building constructed in 1920. Courtesy of Pat Hunter
In the 1940s, the school colors changed from gold and white to blue and white. Later that same decade, the school colors would change one final time to the beloved blue and gold worn today.
In 1960, Clovis Union High School District formally unified with its six elementary school districts and was renamed the Clovis Unified School District. That same year, Clovis High School boasted 69 certificated staff and 1,429 students. During the decade of the 1960s, average attendance grew by 5% every year forcing the school to spread across Fifth Avenue onto what is today the C. Todd Clark Intermediate School campus. Each passing period Fifth Avenue transformed from a quiet thoroughfare for passing motorists into a makeshift hallway for the students of Clovis High. The safety threat of having hundreds of students crossing while oncoming traffic approached was not lost on Clovis Unified’s first Superintendent, Dr. Floyd B “Doc” Buchanan. With space quickly disappearing and student safety concerns mounting, the school district began making plans and to build a brand new 60-acre facility in the heart of farmland, “way out there”, at the corner of Barstow and Fowler. Despite opposition to the location of the proposed high school, the school board approved the plans and construction began on the new home of the Cougars.
The new $4.9 million, 74 classroom site complete with a multi-purpose building, kitchen, pool, administration office, and a library opened in 1969 and has been the home of Clovis High School ever since. The 1920 facility across from C. Todd Clark Intermediate continued to serve the school district as a continuation and adult school location well into the 1970s. Today, San Joaquin College of Law, the Central Valley’s premiere law school, continues to use the facility to train top-notch legal minds, including many proud Cougar alumni.
Above: A photo of the newly opened Clovis High School in 1970. Courtesy of the Clovis High School Cavalcade volume XXXIV, 1970
As Clovis High School nears a half-century at its current home on the corner of Bullard and Fowler avenues, the campus and its surroundings look noticeably different. Thanks in large part to the continual support of the community, and the faith they have placed in Clovis Unified School District, Clovis High School remains a beautiful campus with first-class academic and athletic facilities educating tomorrow’s leaders to be the best they can be in mind, body, and spirit. Clovis High School remains a benchmark school that sets the standard for excellence in education alongside the rest of the nationally acclaimed Clovis Unified School District schools.
Above: Clovis High School today. Courtesy of Ron Webb
The information used to compile this brief history of Clovis High School comes from Susan Sawyer Wise and Kelly Avants’ work 50 Unified Years: Building a Tradition of Excellence in Clovis Unified Before, During and After Unification. We are grateful for their efforts to preserve the history of our Cougars.