Stuart Island has had a public school since 1897. At that time, Stuart Island School District #26 was started by an assistant lighthouse keeper, and school sessions were held in the lighthouse barn. In 1904, a carpenter built a small school for the local district on land that was donated for district use. That building is still standing and currently houses the small school/community library.
The school closed briefly during World War II and again in the 1960's after a boating accident killed most of the students. In 1967 Stuart Island School became part of the San Juan Island School District. It has a special designation by the state of Washington as a “Remote and Necessary” school because of its remote location and the difficulty of transporting students safely to the larger schools on San Juan Island. It is a kindergarten through 8th grade facility. Over the years, the student population has grown and shrunk along with the population of the island.
As Stuart Island is home to two marine state parks, Stuart Island School is visited annually by thousands of tourists throughout the summer and on evenings and week-ends. The library and a small museum which are maintained through the donated efforts of island residents and school staff are open to the public. Due to the number of visitors, the Stuart Island School PTSA is able to do significant fund-raising through activities such as bake sales and postcard sales. The local PTSA uses those funds to buy books, fund field trips and pay for visiting artists to supplement the educational program for the students on the island.
· Stuart Island School is a kindergarten through 8th grade one-room public school that is part of the San Juan Island School District. The school is centrally located on Stuart Island. It is about 14 miles NNW of Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington.
· The campus is on 3.13 acres and includes the 1654 square foot main building that was built in 1980 as well as a small library, a museum, a workshop, outhouses and a large playing field.
· There is no public transportation to the island or school. Most residents access Stuart by private boat from Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. The trip from Roche takes from 15 minutes to an hour depending on the boat and weather conditions. Over the years, depending on where on the island students live, students come to school on foot, by bike, car or by a combination of boat and car.
· There are no public utilities on Stuart Island. The school uses a generator and invertor for electricity. There is an oil fired furnace and wood stove for heat. The school has minimal plumbing with a sink and small kitchen and outhouses.
· The school is taught in a multi-age integrated format with students learning at their own pace. Because of the small student to teacher ratio, the curriculum is tailored to the needs of individual students.
· Stuart school provides a nurturing but rigorous academic curriculum that is aligned with state academic learning standards. State testing is administered and used to help monitor student progress and to assess and revise the academic program.
· Stuart provides many opportunities for “hands-on” education such as conducting experiments, maintaining aquariums, making 3-D maps and participating in many outdoor educational activities.
· Through our Little Wolf PTA, we have been able to fund many academic field trips all across the country including to Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite and Death Valley, and Washington D.C.
· Stuart School provides many opportunities in the arts including painting, drawing, music, drama and fiber arts. Visiting artists are engaged to broaden the learning in fine arts.
· Students are encouraged to discover and develop their passions. We want students to be excited about learning.
· Spiraling Thematic Units in Social Studies and Science are taught each year. For example, one year the Social Studies unit might be American History/Geography and the next year World History and Cultures. All the students in the school are included in the thematic unit at their level.
· Parents are encouraged to be involved in the activities of the school and to participate in the learning. Community members also are welcome to share their skills. An example is a local wood-turner who has worked with the students teaching them how to turn wooden bowls.
· Due to the small number of students, opportunities to engage with other students and schools are encouraged. In particular, Stuart Island School has participated with other small island schools (Shaw Island and Waldron Island) in sharing visiting artists, science fairs, field trips, young writers’ conferences, etc.
· Most years Stuart Island School students publish regular newspapers highlighting the activities and learning.
· Stuart Island School has fairly reliable internet access. This has been used regularly by students to participate in on-line learning such as IXL and citizen science programs such as Project Feeder watch. Use of technology is encouraged for word-processing, presentations such as Power Points, communications such as reading blogs, and research.
Stuart Island is a beautiful place that is visited by thousands of tourists each year. Although a lovely natural environment, Stuart Island is a challenging place to live:
· Stuart Island has a Marine State Park and includes land controlled by the BLM and various land conservation organizations. The rest of the land is privately owned.
· There is no public transportation to Stuart Island. Most residents have private boats and/or planes. Water Taxi service is available but typically runs over $100 per hour. Barges are available for moving large items to the island but one round trip run is $300 or more.
· There is a one lane dirt road on Stuart. Most residents have vehicles such as four-wheelers, pick-ups, motorcycles and small cars. Four-wheel drive is handy for the winter. All fuel must be brought out by the residents.
· There are no public services on Stuart. All groceries and supplies must be brought out by residents.
· There is no public power, water or sewer on the island. Many residents use a combination of generators and alternative energy sources for electricity. Springs and dug or drilled wells are typical water sources.
· Land/house prices on Stuart, like other places in the San Juan Islands, are not inexpensive. Due to the shape of the island, much of the land includes waterfront and a limited amount of the land is arable.
· Rental property is limited on Stuart; Some owners who come in the summer are willing to rent their house/cabins for the school year. To rent on Stuart, one must contact individual landowners to find out about availability.
· Most houses and cabins on Stuart Island use wood heat and many have wood cook stoves. Annually, residents need to get in enough firewood for heating and cooking.
· San Juan Island propane providers send trucks out on a barge several times a year to service residents who use propane for refrigeration, light, heat or cooking.
· In the summer, Stuart Island is socially active with summer tourists and summer residents. The winter months are quiet with only about 10-15 residents staying year-round.
· Most residents use cell phones and internet for communication. However, the cell phone service is not consistent across the island and cell phones often roam through Canada for their signal, which can be costly especially for text messages. Internet service is also spotty and there is no service provider that covers the whole island. However, most residents have figured out away to get at least some internet access either by setting up their own system or sharing a system that is already in place.
· There is no post office on Stuart Island; mail is delivered 3 times per week to a mail shed on the East Side of the island. Residents may choose to have a non-locking mailbox in this mail shed. UPS delivers one time per week as long as the East Side runway is open.
· Employment opportunities on Stuart Island are highly limited. There are no businesses or industries. Through the years, many resident families have had a family member leave the island for employment. Some island residents have created work by doing activities such as care taking/maintenance for non-residents, growing vegetables for sale or selling T-shirt to tourists. People whose work is via the internet, writers, or artists might find Stuart Island a good place to call home.
· Boat ownership; ability to run a boat in a variety of weather conditions
· Familiarity with alternative energy
· Love of quiet times and solitude
· Ability to use a chain saw and to split/stack wood
· Self-sufficiency and do-it-yourself mentality: can you fix your own car? A plumbing leak?
· Enjoyment of the natural world and a physically demanding lifestyle
· Interest in independent activities and hobbies such as gardening, making art, reading or writing
· Flexibility: for example, you can’t just “run to the store” if you run out of milk; sometimes the weather makes a water crossing dangerous and you have to change your plans
· A willingness to do without or with less: electricity; refrigeration, shopping, social contact
Most of all - A sense of adventure and a sense of humor!