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Bond Projects Update: Happy Valley and Lowell

Bond Projects Update

Thanks to Bellingham voters, two of the bond projects approved in November 2013 are reaching major milestones for planning an addition and improvements at Lowell Elementary School and a rebuild of Happy Valley Elementary School.

Lowell Elementary Project

The Lowell Elementary Design Advisory Group has been meeting since March to:

  • Provide input and process the design elements for Lowell Elementary School’s new gym, cafeteria, elevator and classrooms, as well as the location of the new gym and cafeteria; and
  • Help communicate and gather input from stakeholders including staff, neighbors, community members and parents.

Following four committee meetings and two public meetings with the community, the group has submitted their educational specifications and schematic design recommendations to the superintendent.

The recommendation includes the design elements for construction of a new, two-story 9,500 square-foot gymnasium and cafeteria building with related site improvements. The addition will house a cafeteria, kitchen, gymnasium, and a music classroom/stage as well as support spaces. Approximately 3,500 square feet of space inside in the existing Lowell building will also be modified to accommodate three new classrooms.

The recommendation is to locate the new building on the north side of the school along 15th Street. The recommended design for the addition will include a brick façade, similar to the historic brick façade of the adjacent 100-year Lowell school. The project also includes a 3-stop elevator providing access to all building levels.

The superintendent will now review and consider the recommendation. Construction is slated to begin in late fall 2014 and will be completed for the start of the 2015-16 school year. Construction activities will be conducted in a way that maintains a safe learning and work environment for children and staff.

Happy Valley Rebuild

The Happy Valley Educational Specifications/Design Advisory Committee is comprised of staff, parents, community members and neighbors and has been meeting since April.

The group’s charge is to recommend updates to the elementary educational specifications for Bellingham Public Schools and provide input on the design of a new Happy Valley Elementary School.  Educational specifications provide a detailed description of the desired educational program, instructional activities, as well as functional, spatial and environmental needs. This helps clarify and direct the scope of work and design requirements for the architects, engineers, and other professionals working on the building design and site plan.

After meeting eight times and holding a community input meeting, the committee is recommending educational specifications to the superintendent (available on the committee website later this month). As the group continues its design advisory work throughout this fall, the committee wants to seek additional community input during a public meeting from 6-7 p.m. Monday, July 21 at Happy Valley Elementary School, 1041 24th St., in room 9. The purpose of this meeting will be to share a project update and gather input on the committee’s proposed site and building plan, including the new building’s location, ingress/egress and parking.

The committee visited some elementary schools in Washington for design exploration for the new Happy Valley and brainstormed many possibilities with NAC Architects. The recommended educational specifications place a high value on natural light, “classroom neighborhoods” or clusters of learning areas throughout the school, a welcoming entrance and outdoor learning spaces. The recommended location for the new Happy Valley is to the east of the existing school with vehicle access from 24th Street and the 3-5 school buses accessing the site via Mill and 27th streets.

Plans are to bid the project in early spring 2015. Construction of the new building will begin in the summer of 2015 and be completed in the summer of 2016, ready for the opening of the 2016-17 school year. Demolition of the old building and final site work will occur in the fall 2016. The existing school will remain occupied and active during construction with a priority of providing a safe learning and work environment for children and staff.