Pandemic School Year Ends with Friday Harbor Graduation Celebration

Posted June 11, 2021 at 5:30 am by

By Fred Woods, super­in­ten­dent, San Juan Island School District

Con­tributed photo/ SJISD. Super­in­ten­dent Fred Woods.

It is hard to believe we are near­ing the end of the school year, my first as the San Juan Island School Dis­trict Superintendent.

I doubt any of us thought the pan­dem­ic that shook this world in March of 2020 would last this long. After a chal­leng­ing year, we now see signs of life that are more famil­iar, and for those of us in the pub­lic school sys­tem, this means a tra­di­tion­al rite of pas­sage – graduation!

Sat­ur­day, June 12 we will cel­e­brate the grad­u­a­tion of 56 young men and women.

The Grif­fin Bay School grad­u­a­tion will be held at noon and Fri­day Har­bor High School’s grad­u­a­tion is set for 5 p.m. the same day. Both cel­e­bra­tions will take place out­side on the ath­let­ic field at the high school.

Though lim­it­ed to only eight mem­bers of each graduate’s fam­i­ly cir­cle, we are so excit­ed to be able to gath­er once again to celebrate.

The fifth grade and the eighth grade will also hold pro­mo­tion cer­e­monies on the last week of school with every­one look­ing ahead to what the new year brings.

These stu­dents have much to cel­e­brate. In truth, this past year their world was turned upside down and all the joy of an Amer­i­can school expe­ri­ence was lost.

For sec­ondary stu­dents, there was no home­com­ing, no prom, no con­certs or play pro­duc­tions, and no reg­u­lar-sea­son sport­ing events. Ele­men­tary and mid­dle school chil­dren did not take their usu­al field trips or engage in group learn­ing activities.

Time with peers dimin­ished as every­one focused on how to live safe­ly through this pan­dem­ic. How­ev­er, as the Super­in­ten­dent and a for­mer prin­ci­pal, I have been impressed with the resilien­cy and for­ti­tude of stu­dents across the dis­trict. This year’s stu­dents found them­selves in a posi­tion where they need­ed to dig deep, and they did.

This year saw a state art award, two ele­men­tary school STEM Explo­raV­i­sion project awards, and col­lege accep­tances to Duke, Stan­ford, Vil­lano­va, and West Point. Ath­letes grit­ted out a short­ened sports sea­son and every­one learned how to learn in a whole dif­fer­ent way.

At the begin­ning of the year, I shared my hope that we would learn from this cri­sis. Fac­ul­ty and staff met the chal­lenge and amazed us with new and invalu­able instruc­tion­al tech­nol­o­gy that will be inte­grat­ed into the cur­ricu­lum going forward.

Grif­fin Bay School was reimag­ined and has now become a remote learn­ing facil­i­ty for any child in the state of Wash­ing­ton. Facil­i­ty improve­ments such as touch­less fix­tures will sup­port the health of our chil­dren in years to come. The fact is that these changes, as well as oth­ers, are in place now because of what we went through. We learned.

The suc­cess of San Juan Island School Dis­trict is large­ly due to this com­mu­ni­ty. Local sup­port dur­ing this time of cri­sis was noth­ing short of astound­ing. This island tru­ly cares about edu­ca­tion and the safe­ty of our children.

My heart­felt thanks go to the San Juan Island Pub­lic Schools Foun­da­tion, the San Juan Island Com­mu­ni­ty Foun­da­tion, Val­mark, Inc., Fri­day Har­bor Food Bank, Unit­ed Way, and oth­er pri­vate donors, large and small. As your Super­in­ten­dent, I am at a loss for the words to express my grat­i­tude for all those who sup­port­ed our stu­dents this year.

What does this mean for next year? At this time, the plan is to return to a school set­ting that is much more like the one that we are used to. It might not look exact­ly like pre-COVID, depend­ing on the guid­ance we receive from the state, but at this time we are plan­ning to return to full-day in-per­son school.

We under­stand there has been a huge impact on stu­dents aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly this past year. In response to that, we are offer­ing a vari­ety of ser­vices this sum­mer and a strong social and emo­tion­al learn­ing pro­gram next fall. We will recov­er. It will just take time.

For now, enjoy the sum­mer, and let us look for­ward to return­ing to the cam­pus­es on Thurs­day, Sept. 2. 

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Categories: Education

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