Auction will fund travel study as students discover the world

Harbor School students gather in Segovia, Spain. - Courtesy Photo
Harbor School students gather in Segovia, Spain.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

The Harbor School will hold its annual benefit auction on Saturday, with an eye toward celebrating the addition of a new building. Auction-goers will also celebrate the fulfillment of an arts initiative and increasing enrollment, as well as set a new focus on the school’s travel study program and work toward accreditation with the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS).

“We have a lot to celebrate,” said Head of School James Cardo. “Last year’s auction was all about the arts initiative, and we’ve been able to realize that. Now we’re looking ahead to what else we need to do.”

The school recently installed a custom, two-classroom modular building so that one existing classroom could become a dedicated art studio and the school could once again look to increase its enrollment without being constrained by space limitations.

The new building came from Idaho and was delivered last week, while students were participating in travel study programs.

“It was a surprise for them when they came back,” Cardo said.

Cardo said he expects the new building to be ready for students after spring break in April.

The Harbor School saw a 15 percent increase in enrollment this year, primarily at the lower school level — fourth and fifth grades — and it will be looking to hire another teacher, Cardo said.

Next year, some of the school’s new students will come from off-island for the first time. The Harbor School has enrolled five or six families from off-island for the 2014-2015 school year, Cardo said, explaining that as part of the school’s outreach campaign, representatives recently attended a fair for Seattle independent schools.

The Harbor School itself is currently a candidate member of the NWAIS, and Cardo says that the goal is to be fully accredited by the fall of 2015.

“Accreditation shows everyone that the school is doing best practices for an independent school, and it opens up grant opportunities,”  he said.

With the arts initiative well underway and enrollment headed in the right direction, the auction this year is focused on supporting travel study programs. The theme is “Voyage of Discovery,” and proceeds from the benefit will go directly to fund what Cardo calls an integral piece of the school’s curriculum.

Many auction items, available online at the Harbor School’s website, include adventures in far flung places — Paris and Alaska among them — as well as closer to home, including a night on the town in Tacoma and a Meat and Noodle dinner in the winning bidder’s home. Several other auction items will be offered as well, including art by island artists and students — all to support education through travel.

“We want to run the program so that the students are learning off the school grounds for 40 days each school year,” he said. “With enrollment increasing, we need more money to support that. We don’t want to be limited by budget constraints; we need to keep it robust.”

The travel curriculum involves a number of two-day excursions, such as the eighth-grade trip to the University of Washington’s graduate library, as well as the annual Voyagers Week, where students have a more in-depth opportunity to learn about the world outside Vashon. This year’s Voyager Week adventures saw Harbor School students participating in snow sport activities at Mount Tahoma, digital photography classes with Ray Pfortner at Fort Worden near Port Townsend, spending a week at a home stay in Madrid, Spain, and traveling to the “historic triangle” of the Yorktown battlefield, Jamestown and colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

“It’s so important,” Cardo said of the off-campus experiences. “What the kids do outside the classroom informs what they do inside.”

The Harbor School’s “Voyage of Discovery” benefit auction will take place at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Open Space for Arts & Community. Tickets cost $50, and reservations are required. To purchase tickets and for more information about the event and auction items, go to

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