In past years, on the final day of school, teachers and staff at Unalaska City School and Eagle's View Elementary Achigaalux would come dressed in their finest summer-vacation-themed attire as they'd bid farewell to their students with high-fives, hugs, and warm wishes of a relaxing and productive summer.
However, as is the case for many events this spring, the occasion looked starkly different from years past.
Because schools have been closed to students since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the chance to simply say goodbye for the summer seemed almost impossible. But Unalaska teachers and staff rose to the occasion and developed a plan for sending their students off into summer vacation from a safe distance.
May 29 marked the final day of school for students in Unalaska. And in an effort to provide an uplifting end to a challenging school year, teachers and staff lined up along the curbs in front of each school, and danced, cheered, and waved goodbye as students drove and biked through the school parking lots.
Outside the elementary school, fourth grade teacher Lucy Ortiz bounced on a mini trampoline, paddled her oars enthusiastically, and held a sign that said, ''Keep on paddling! We are proud of you!''
Third grade teacher Riley Spetz told jokes to students passing by and brought along his puppy, who was dressed in Raider gear and greeted students from a paddle board.
As many students hadn't seen their teachers in roughly two months, as schools transitioned to home-based education earlier this spring, it was a welcome opportunity to bid one another farewell. And it wasn't only the students who appreciated the event.
Junior high and high school math teacher, Emma Carr was happy to get a chance to say some final goodbyes to families and students. While she said she's sad about the way the school year ended, she was thankful for the chance to see her students again, proud of staff pulling together, and impressed with the effort and perseverance of students.
''I am so impressed with the kids. This is a thing I never had to deal with,'' sympathized Carr. ''And I teach junior high and I have 12 and 13-year-olds who are responsible for themselves most of the time. A lot of them are responsible for younger siblings and I was really impressed with everyone—in the amount of work that they were able to get done and the conversations and questions that I had from kids. And it was just so wonderful to also see our community pulling together. I was just so, so proud of all of my students.''
While Thursday would have been students' final day at school, they finished with home-based education the previous week and are scheduled to return from summer break August 19.