The Heights Elementary School was a hive of activity Tuesday morning as students, teachers, and parents ushered in the start of the 2019-20 year.
Parents and guardians snapped photos, offered encouragement, and bid farewell to their kindergarten through fifth-graders, several of whom expressed excitement and trepidation — or some of both — heading into the new school year.
“I most look forward to seeing all of my students,” said Juli Wozniak, principal of The Heights and Gearhart Elementary School. “Their smiling faces make my job truly the best job in the world.”
For all four schools in the district, administrators anticipate this year will be a bittersweet one, as three of the four student bodies are transfering to the new school campus after next summer.
“This is probably going to be one of the most momentous years in the history of our district,” Superintendent Sheila Roley said. “We have so many important things on our plate.”
Despite Gearhart Elementary School, Broadway Middle School, and Seaside High School having some leaks in their roofs and outdated heating systems and being located in the tsunami zone, “they’ve been home for us for a long time,” Roley said. Each activity and event that occurs at the facilities throughout the year will be tinged by the awareness that it is happening in that location for the last time.
“The process of closure is not just locking the doors and handing over the keys,” Roley said. “We really feel it’s important to honor the history and the traditions and to close those buildings with a worthy ending for the service they’ve given to our community and our kids.”
“We are essentially closing and saying goodbye to two amazing elementary schools and opening a newly remodeled elementary school beginning in the fall of 2020,” she said. “Saying goodbye and letting go will be difficult, but we are all excited for the new adventure.”
Besides the emotional toll, there is also the tangible work created by the upcoming transition. Throughout the year, teachers will add packing, purging and preparing for the move to their list of responsibilities. The Heights is operating this year in a construction zone, which Wozniak anticipates will come with some challenges.
Already the personnel at the various institutions — particularly the elementary schools — are working on building cohesion between their processes and procedures and identifying areas of collaboration that can be improved upon by the schools’ increased proximity next year.
The district also has to sell the properties where the schools currently exist. They are listed with a commercial real estate agent and the district’s project manager Jim Henry is assisting with the process of selling the properties at a price that will support ongoing capital improvement in the district, including completion of the new campus. Roley will review his recommendations before sending the final offers on the properties to the district’s Board of Directors for approval.
“It’s really a period of growth for us, and it’s going to be hard, and heartbreaking, and back-breaking, and frustrating, and wonderful, and joyful, and crazy, and so rewarding, all at the same time,” Roley said.