Thursday, December 24, 2020
Operation Santa helps Woodland’s K-4 students celebrate the holidays despite the pandemic

Using a combination of holiday magic along with teamwork throughout the district, Woodland Public Schools’ three elementary schools created Operation Santa, an event created to provide students and staff with a little of the holiday magic missing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

North Fork Elementary School Principal Denise Pearl and Columbia Elementary Principal David Starkey along with Elementary Assistant Principal Darcy Soto wanted to do something special for their students before the holiday break. “Our students have been working so hard, and with virtual learning, many of them have missed out on the holiday fun that happens at the elementary level,” said Starkey. “We wanted to do something to remind them that we care about them, love them, and support them.”

Principal Pearl agreed, “Usually, the last week of school before vacation is filled with holiday activities and celebrations which our virtual students were going to miss out on this year,” she said. “Usually, Santa visits our holiday concerts, so we wanted to find a way to still celebrate with our students, even if we couldn’t have them in school.”

Enter Operation Santa Claus. “When Phillip Pearson, our high school principal, heard we wanted to do something, he reached out and told us about this idea he did in a previous district,” said Starkey. “Along with the help and support of the entire district, we created Operation Santa Claus.”


Woodland Public Schools Superintendent Michael Green took on the mantle of Santa ClausWoodland Public Schools Superintendent Michael Green took on the mantle of Santa Claus


Students and their families drove up to the entrance of their school where they were greeted by Superintendent Michael “Santa Claus” Green along with principals dressed as elves and teachers in full holiday attire. While still strictly practicing social distancing and wearing masks, Santa greeted each student and gave them a new book donated by the Scholastic Corporation and a candy cane. In addition, Facilities Director Scott Landrigan donated lights and decorations to cover the schools in holiday cheer.

The result was a holiday miracle. “Operation Santa was a huge hit,” said Starkey. “The students loved it, the families appreciated, and the staff enjoyed it – I had one particular staff member tell me, ‘This is amazing! We have to do this every year!’”


Teachers and staff from throughout the district volunteered to help Operation Santa become realityTeachers and staff from throughout the district volunteered to help Operation Santa become reality


At North Fork Elementary, students lined up to see the show. “The turnout was better than expected with traffic out to the street for nearly the full two hours we ran the event,” said Pearl. “Our students were full of smiles and so excited to see their students.” Yale Elementary School even had a pet goose show up who wanted to meet Santa.

All involved point to the support of the district as a whole for making the event happen. “We had volunteers including district office staff, teachers from other schools, instructional assistants, and custodians who all wrapped gifts for our students,” said Starkey. “The entire event was a true team effort and I could not be more proud of our team at Woodland Public Schools.”

K-4 students unable to attend Operation Santa Claus on the day of the event, will receive their special gifts when they come back to school in the new year.

Learn more about how Woodland Public Schools educates our students and serves the community, by visiting our dedicated news webpage at

Stay informed with the latest updates about the eventual transition from remote learning to in-person learning and more about COVID-19 at Woodland Public Schools’ dedicated website: