Four months of separation ended this week when Tisbury School’s fifth through eighth grade classes returned to their homerooms after a semester at the regional high school campus. On Friday, at their first assembly as a unified student body since the spring of 2019, nearly 300 Tisbury School students cheered and clapped when their school mascot took the floor.

The applause became explosive when Tisbury Tiger removed his toothy, orange-striped head to reveal the beaming face of principal John Custer.

Kindergarten through fourth grade remained at the Tisbury School, while fifth through eighth graders went to the regional high school. — Jeanna Shepard

“We finally, finally have our school all in one place,” Mr. Custer said to the crowd.

The start of school on Monday brought the return of about 140 Tisbury children along with their teachers and assistant principal Melissa Ogden, after four months at the regional high school campus.

Their sojourn there followed last summer’s discovery of peeling lead paint at the 90-year-old Tisbury School. To keep students safe while the contaminated areas were remediated, school officials divided the student body in half and sent the older children to the regional high school campus.

“I can’t say enough about the high schoolers and how respectfully they treated the kids,” Ms. Ogden told the Gazette.

The walked, ran, and crutched to the celebration. — Jeanna Shepard

But on the Tisbury campus, the older students and their teachers left a vacancy that Mr. Custer said he felt every day of the four months they were gone.

“We wanted to have a little celebration,” Mr. Custer said to the crowd on Friday afternoon, as Ms. Ogden stood by his side holding the Tisbury Tiger costume head. “We love you. We missed you. But we’re back.”

In honor of teacher assistant and interpretation Laura Weisman, the brief assembly also included two rousing mass renditions of the song Happy Birthday, first in English and then in Portuguese.

Principal John Custer and assistant principal Melissa Ogden led the celebration. — Jeanna Shepard

After dismissing the children, Mr. Custer (still a tiger from the neck down) continued to smile with happiness and relief as he and Ms. Ogden reflected on their unusual first semester.

Having seen how well the high school students treated the Tisbury exiles, Ms. Ogden said she is now encouraging the older classes to show the same leadership and respect to their schoolmates in kindergarten through fourth grade.

“That’s definitely a silver lining,” she said.

“There were a lot of silver linings and a lot of learning opportunities,” Mr. Custer added. “We accept those as positive outcomes from what was a difficult situation. That’s what you get when you work with kids, a lot of silver linings.”