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A farewell bid to Bayview School: Bayview grads, staff prepare for new chapter

Students of Bayview School’s graduating class of 2012 assemble around the historic bell in front of the alternative high school. In front are Sydney Mann, Devan Farstad, Megan Scott, Isabella Moreno, Taylor Donahew, Marlee Quintasket, Keanu Regan and Sydney Boyle. Perched near the bell are Jess Barker, Lela Pigott and Christyna da Rosa.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Students of Bayview School’s graduating class of 2012 assemble around the historic bell in front of the alternative high school. In front are Sydney Mann, Devan Farstad, Megan Scott, Isabella Moreno, Taylor Donahew, Marlee Quintasket, Keanu Regan and Sydney Boyle. Perched near the bell are Jess Barker, Lela Pigott and Christyna da Rosa.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

BAYVIEW — The old white school building shines a little brighter in June.

Summer approaches and so does the Bayview School’s graduation, which will send 14 students into the world Thursday, June 7. The joy of graduation is  offset for many by the fact that’s also the date when South Whidbey’s alternative high school will relocate and be renamed Island Academy at the South Whidbey Primary Campus.

In effect, the Bayview School class of 2012 is its last.

“This building just has so much history,” said Bayview senior Lela Pigott. “I think it’s amazing that on this small island that we have a community that cares enough about its children to make a school like this.”

The South Whidbey School District elected to move and reform the school into a kindergarten-12th grade alternative school. The 100-year-old building that started as a grade school and then housed a Skagit Valley College campus, had little technology infrastructure and added 10 minutes to the commute of teachers who split time at Bayview School and other district schools.

Bayview School staff and David Pfeiffer, the school’s director, supported the proposal to move at a recent school board meeting, though students are a bit torn about losing the uniqueness of their campus.

“It makes me really sad because, for me, Bayview is this building as well as the people in it,” said Bayview senior Isabella Moreno. “I know that in reality, the people are Bayview.”

Hundreds of students have passed through the halls of the 19th Century  school house for 17 years. The building had a long history as a school since it opened in 1895. It served eight classes in two rooms for years, but was closed as a public school in 1942. After stints hosting the American Legion and Skagit Valley College, the school district opened an alternative high school. The first “new” Bayview Class of 1995 boasted 47 students.

The aim, as with all of the school district’s programs, is to make students career and college ready. Pfeiffer said the small school allows students to be and feel visible to Bayview’s teachers.

“The biggest factor in preparing and supporting our students for the work force is to be found in the work our teachers do with our students,” Pfeiffer said. “In a smaller school setting, our students are very visible to our teachers, who work with them in a highly individualized manner with a great deal of mentoring and coaching taking place.”

More than 30 students were enrolled in 2011-2012, and Pfeiffer said four will return for extra years before graduating. In its final year as Bayview School, 14 students will graduate (about average), though the total is a decrease from the past two classes that had 20 graduates.

For Moreno, Bayview School provided much needed motivation after a difficult time at South Whidbey High School. She was expelled from the high school and thought her education was over.

“I started focusing more on school,” said Moreno, one of the class speakers.

“I got my first B in math and I kept moving forward,” she added.

Moreno recently was awarded a $500 scholarship from the Kiwanis of South Whidbey. She plans to use the money to pursue either a writing or a performing arts degree (she has been involved in the Island Shakespeare Festival and Whidbey Children’s Theater) at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham.

Though, her first priority, like many in her graduating class, will be employment.

“My main focus will be finding a job, and then school,” Moreno said.

Bayview School also provided Pigott the lift she needed to graduate. The 18-year-old senior transferred to the alternative school after two years at South Whidbey High School had proven difficult.

“I was struggling a lot at the high school both socially and academically,” she said.

“It was getting to the point where I couldn’t keep taking the stressful classes like biology and math. A lot of kids in the class made it hard to learn.”

Math was the bane of her school work. She couldn’t keep up, but Bayview’s online program through Apex allowed her to learn and work on her own, and follow up with teachers and tutors during class.

“They set it up so you can go at your own pace,” Pigott said. “The tutors here are amazing. That’s the only reason that I’m graduating.”

Other students will graduate ahead of schedule. Christyna da Rosa finished her high school education in three years after she transferred to Bayview School from the high school last year. While some courses were too slow, others were too fast, and da Rosa said she needed a personal learning plan, which Pfeiffer has touted as Bayview’s strength.

“At the regular high school in some of my classes, I felt like I was being held back from some of the more advanced classes due to the age requirements, and then in math I couldn’t keep up,” da Rosa said. “Here I could take classes more suited to my learning style.”

“I did a 180 and I’m graduating early.”

Still, leaving the old white walls will be difficult for the soon-to-be graduates.

“I kind of like a creaky, old, wooden building,” Pigott said. “I never thought I’d be the kind of person who gets attached to a building.”

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