Fewer cuts, more art in San Juan Island public schools this year

Arts education returns to Friday Harbor Elementary School this year, thanks to a partnership with Islands Museum of Art.  - Jane K. Fox / 2009
Arts education returns to Friday Harbor Elementary School this year, thanks to a partnership with Islands Museum of Art.
— image credit: Jane K. Fox / 2009

School begins Sept. 1. There are some new things in store.

A partnership with Islands Museum of Art will result in an artist in residence at Friday Harbor Elementary School this year.

Leisha Holmes, a local artist who operates the popular summer program "Club Mud," will teach art part-time and will coordinate visits by artists.

Elementary School Principal Gary Pflueger says he is excited to have arts back in the school, adding that the loss of the discipline was "a real blow" last year.

Sixth-graders, moved last year from the middle school to the elementary school, will go to the middle school for their art or band elective. The middle school arts program, led last year by Bryn Barnard, will be taught by Brook Landers. Landers taught Spanish at the middle school last year.

A return to arts in the classroom is not the only new thing awaiting Friday Harbor students.

Maintenance and repairs were done during the summer. "You have to have the furnace serviced and don't let the plumbing drip," Superintendent Rick Thompson said. "It's a good investment in the long run."

Repairs include:

— Replacement of portions of the concrete behind the high school.
— Flooring repair in the middle school.
— Repairs to a drain in the football field.
— Installation of a French drain around the edge of the football field to alleviate water damage.
— Leak repairs on the elementary school roof.
— Energy-efficient lighting installed in the high school gym, under consultation with Sylvania and OPALCO, with the prospect of getting an energy rebate.

Maintenance and repairs cost about $76,000 from the Capital Projects Fund.

Enrollment decrease in elementary school
Thompson said the district will be "watching the enrollment," which has declined. However, Pflueger says it will be hard to tell exactly what enrollment is until the school year gets under way. Although enrollment in the elementary school has decreased this year, Pflueger says the kindergarden class is larger than last year's, with about 60 children scheduled.

Budget cuts have continued but are, according to Thompson, less severe this year. "The district has cut less but has continued to cut. We are down to the basic staffing." Overall, heading into the school year, Thompson says the district is financially "in pretty good shape."

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