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Big changes, new faces, tighter pockets this school year in San Juan Island School District

The new school year begins Sept. 2, with some noticeable changes in the San Juan Island School District.

The most visible structural changes are at the elementary and middle schools. The sixth grade is being moved to the elementary school, leaving seventh and eighth grades at the middle school.

"It's going to be interesting," said Binney Haenel, middle-school office manager. "The sixth grade will still come to the middle school for band and drama, but class sizes are going to be bigger because we lost so much of our staff."

No decisions regarding use of the former sixth-grade wing of the middle school have been made, although an advisory team has been formed. And it's still not known what the middle school will be called — a "middle school" or "junior high."

At Friday Harbor High School, winter term has been abolished and the school has moved to a six-period day. The switch was made partially for budgetary reasons, but also because winter term makes scheduling for teachers who go between the middle school and high school difficult, high school secretary Janet Chamberlain said.

There are also significant administrator and staff changes throughout the district.

Walt Wegener, formerly of Toppenish School District, is serving as interim superintendent; he succeeded Michael Soltman, who left to become superintendent of Vashon Island schools.

Fred Woods will pull double-duty as principal of the high school and middle school. Rod Turnbull will serve as dean of students — a new position — at the middle school, responsible for student discipline.

Five new teachers have joined the district. Andrew Anderson, formerly of Oklahoma, will teach high school art. Kelci Everett, of Forest Grove, Ore., will teach elementary special education. Sherrie Gibson has relocated from Florida to teach middle school science part-time. Amanda Moulton, formerly of Cheney, will teach high school math. Christy Putney, a substitute teacher, will teach sixth-grade humanities.

Excluding Anderson, all these positions are leave-of-absence replacements.

Thanks to fund-raising in the community, the sports program is unchanged for fall: football, girls soccer, boys tennis, volleyball, and cheerleading will be offered. Sports funding has been eliminated from the district's budget for the 2009-10 school year, and supporters hope voters approve an increase in Island Rec's tax levy — 7 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation — to fund school sports. Supporters say the levy request comes as a school district bond levy — about 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation — expires.

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