Facilities Update: Happy Valley, Parkview, Options, Sehome Contractor and High School Fields

I am excited to provide an update on our Nov. 2013 voter-approved facilities bond and the progress we’re making at our schools.

The new Happy Valley Elementary School is on schedule, and we are planning to open it in time for the 2016-17 school year. We will be inviting students, staff, families and our community to an official ribbon cutting ceremony on Aug. 23, the day before the first day of school. Many thanks to Tiger Construction, its subcontractors, our architects and our staff who have been putting in many hours on this amazing new school. See the progress on this work zone camera or check out our aerial photography here.

Parkview Elementary School’s new cafeteria, kitchen and music classroom/stage are also slated to open in time for the 2016-17 school year. Here you can see a great view of Parkview’s new covered play area and watch a time-lapse video of progress since June 2015. A special community event and tour of Parkview’s new construction will be scheduled for early fall.

We will be breaking ground on the new Options High School this June. The Options High School Educational Specifications/Design Advisory Committee concluded its work and submitted design recommendations to me last June. This new facility on Franklin Street will house Options High School, along with a variety of other district programs, which may include GRADS and CTE offerings. Options staff and students will be temporarily relocated inside Bellingham High School next year during construction. It’s been powerful to witness the One Schoolhouse strategy of The Bellingham Promise in action; a big shout out to our Options and Bellingham staff and students who have been so flexible.

We have selected Dawson Construction to be the general contractor/construction manager for the new Sehome High School. The 35-member Sehome Educational Specifications/Design Advisory Committee has been meeting and working with Dykeman Architects since November. The existing Sehome will be replaced with a new state of the art facility that fosters innovation and provides flexibility for current and future programs. New synthetic turf athletic fields (baseball, softball, and football), tennis courts, and a synthetic running track will also be part of the project. Dawson Construction is based in Bellingham and has worked on school facility projects in the past, including the replacement of Bellingham High School and rebuilding Whatcom Middle School following the devastating fire in 2009.  The new Sehome is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019.

We are working through some significant programmatic changes to prepare for our new Central Kitchen, which will be located on the Sehome campus. Chef Ann Cooper and her team have been working with our food services staff to support us as we begin taking steps to provide wholesome, healthful foods at our schools.You can read our Food Services Advisory Group’s recommendations, which, along with Chef Cooper’s expertise, are helping us determine short and long-term goals as we build a path for our journey toward natural, scratch food.

I am pleased to report that I just received a thoughtful and thorough recommendation from our High School Turf Fields Advisory Group. In planning for the bond, we received a lot of feedback from staff, students, athletic programs, marching band, and community groups who felt we needed to replace our often very wet and soggy (therefore unusable) grass fields with synthetic turf. This advisory group was tasked with providing input and recommendations for design elements (e.g. field markings, lighting, fencing, seating, etc.) associated with synthetic turf field installations at Bellingham and Squalicum high schools. They were also asked to provide input and recommend the type of turf and infill material for the new synthetic fields. The group is recommending crumb rubber, also known as Styrene Butadiene Rubber or SBR, which is used on all synthetic turf fields in Whatcom County (Civic Field, Joe Martin Stadium, WWU, WCC, Lummi Nation School, Bellingham Sportsplex) and in more than 300 fields in our state. They made this recommendation based on a number of factors including the studies they reviewed and the fact that results of those studies have not indicated a significant health risk from its use. Again, the advisory group’s report is thorough and full of research and information from presenters and interviews. I encourage you to read it if you have questions about crumb rubber.

Please feel free to comment on my blog about any of these updates. What excites you? What do you have questions about? 

I also encourage you to click on the links included throughout email to find out more about our advisory group processes and the many staff, students, families and community members, many of whom volunteer their time to help us tackle some big processes and decisions.

Thank you! Don’t forget to try to walk or drive by some of these schools/construction sites to see our bond in action, in person.

Greg Baker