School begins on San Juan Island on Sept. 2

The following letter is dated Aug. 4 and was written by San Juan Island School District Superintendent Fred Woods.

At the beginning of June, our school staff was able to celebrate the graduation of seniors from both Friday Harbor School and Griffin Bay School outside on the football field. Seeing the faces of those students and sharing in their joy was priceless. The 2020-2021 school year seemed to last forever as we all navigated the uncertainties of COVID 19. The pandemic shook the world and changed educational approaches across the globe. What we, as educators, missed most of all last year was interaction with students. As a lifelong educator, I can assure you, there is nothing more energizing than a building full of kids. We are looking forward to the fall and to the return of students, the sounds of their voices excited to see each other again, and the opportunity to resume what we do best.

The online, remote and hybrid instruction implemented last year was in response to a disease we did not understand. It was important that we maintain safety for all while at the same time offer opportunities for our community’s children. Given these circumstances, San Juan Island School District provided the best education possible, but it became very clear, very quickly how valuable in-person learning is.

The fact is that most students learn more, grow more, and participate more when in the classroom. We are social beings. We learn from each other, and we need human contact. Therefore, on Thursday, September 2, we will be opening our doors to in-person learning and students will return to an all-day, five-day-a-week schedule. For those families who need their children to be in a remote setting, Griffin Bay School will offer off site and remote learning. Whatever the choice, it is important to note that we have put in place additional social-emotional supports for students across the district and have increased counseling services to meet their needs. Academic after-school programs will be available for tutoring. Students will need assistance as we return to our robust academic roots.

This is not a return to normal if normal is defined as pre-COVID days. This global crisis has not gone away. The Delta variant does cause alarm, and we realize that this battle with an invisible enemy will continue. Throughout the past year, however, we have learned how to mitigate the risks. Schools will continue to do everything possible to ensure that students are safe.

• All students and adults who enter the building will wear masks, vaccinated or not.

• Wearing a mask in public school is a direct order from the Governor and the State Department of Health.

• The Superintendent of Public Instruction has informed all districts statewide that schools who fail to comply to this order will not be funded.

• COVID testing clinics will be available on campus once a week on a volunteer basis for our students and employees. We are now certified to administer rapid testing as needed.

• Staff will continue with disinfection protocols. Our staff will ensure that cleaning is done consistently and thoroughly.

• The air filtration system will be open completely to maintain good air flow.

• Classroom and lunch time structures will encourage social distancing.

Just like you, we wish we could go back to pre-COVID. However, we will do everything we can so students can be safely in their classrooms interacting with their teachers.

As students return to school, they will notice some other changes. In the elementary school, Holly Wehner will greet students as their new principal. Holly has taught at the elementary school since 2014. She has prepared rigorously for a principalship, and we are proud to have her step into this leadership role.

On the secondary campus, construction is underway. Voters approved the capital levy a little over a year ago. One of the items on that levy was a new tennis facility. Soon, you will see the brand-new courts. Of the four courts that will be available to the public during non-school hours, two of them will have pickleball lines. Our goal is to create a facility to be used by our tennis teams, physical education department, and the greater community.

All of this begins in one month. As we continue to learn how to live life with a virus that continues to disrupt, we want you to know that San Juan Island School District is doing all it can to give students the opportunity to grow, achieve, and be prepared for the next step.