13 Jun 2017
- By Lori Lyn C. Lirio – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
AFTER almost 30 years of providing hundreds of students a challenging educational environment, Whispering Palms School has closed its doors.
Dana Okano, chair of the school board of directors, said the decline in enrolment made them decide to shut down WPS which offered classes from K4 to 8th grade.
WPS was founded in 1988 and was first located in Chalan Kiya before it moved to Navy Hill 20 years ago.
The school’s goal was to encourage its students to become critical thinkers and develop a life-long love of learning.
On Saturday, current and former students and their families gathered at WPS for a farewell celebration and potluck.
“This is a bitter-sweet day for all of us,” school board member Janet McCullough said. “We’ve had a lot of great kids that came out of here and are well-rounded citizens. The teachers at WPS have raised a community of young adults to be good, respecting, kind, generous and thoughtful. I’m really proud of the school for helping raise such a community of fine people.”
McCullough’s two children attended WPS.
“I would say it is a celebration of the memories and the accomplishments of the school over the last 30 years,” she added. “The sad part is to say goodbye, but the friendships will continue. The children who were here have a good foundation.”
Jessica Soll, who finished middle school in 2007, was nostalgic when she visited WPS for the last time.
“I spent the majority of my childhood here at WPS, and I have a lot of good memories and friendships that I made and still have. With the school like this, it was like a second family to me. My oldest friend I’ve had for 20 years, I met here at WPS. I wouldn’t have that if it weren’t for this school. It is very big part of who I am now,” Soll said.
“I still remember everything. I remember when that basketball court was built. I remember when the extension to this middle school classroom was done. When we were in maybe 4th or 5th grade, my friends and I used to climb that mango tree and we would pick the mangoes off the tree and just eat them.”
Another former student, Miguel Dandan, said: “It was a great school with great teachers. It felt like home. I’m very sad they have to close.” He was a WPS student from 2002 to 2011, or from kindergarten to eighth grade.
Dana Okano said they notified the students’ families beforehand so the parents could look for another school for the children.
One of the many things that WPS is proud of is its wonderful sports program under teacher Jeff Race.
Coach Jeff, the longest serving employee of WPS, said: “So many kids have got a great educational start here. So many kids who have been here have gone on to be successful in college and their careers.”
He said WPS had strong family values. “It is a school that had a lot of parental involvement and a strong teaching staff. It was a place where kids could feel safe because it was small enough to make sure that everybody was included. Here at WPS we had a low tolerance for bullying and any kind of exclusion.”
Okana thanked the community for supporting WPS through the years. “We are sad to be closing, but we are happy for what we have been able to contribute to the families here on Saipan.”
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/96011-adios-whispering-palms-school