Happy Summer and Updates on Facilities, Curriculum and Budget for 2018-19

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

Dear Families and Community,

I want to wish you a safe and restful summer. This has been an amazing year in Bellingham Public Schools with great progress in so many areas, including an improved high school schedule, new start and end times with a focus on adolescent health, a 1:1 technology roll-out, and probably most importantly, higher graduation rates for all students, particularly our Hispanic students, students who receive services for ELL and special education, and/or those who qualify for free and reduced meals (based on their families’ income). Thank you for all you have done to help deliver on and support The Bellingham Promise.

Facilities Update

  • Due to the incredible efforts of our contractor, Dawson Construction, we are targeting early completion for the main school of the Sehome High School rebuild. The Dawson team, architects and our staff are working ahead of schedule, and we think it’s a real possibility that our staff and students could be moving into the new school at semester break in January. The rest of the Sehome site (including parking lots and fields) would not be complete until fall of 2019, which is consistent with our original timeline. We will share more detailed timelines and plans when we return to school. You can see photos of our progress here or watch our work zone web cam.
  • We are excited to reexamine our plans to develop our property near Lake Whatcom at the Gordon Carter Conservation Site. Recent rules have changed, which will allow us to resume plans to develop and add infrastructure for student learning and outdoor experiences. Design work will start this year, and we plan to build a new large group facility in the summer of 2019.
  • Our District Office is on the list of facilities to be improved/rebuilt thanks to the voter-approved bond in 2013. This would require staff members to relocate temporarily for two years while we remodel our current building on Dupont Street. We have recently been approached by local property owners regarding some ideas of different sites for the district office that would be less expensive and avoid relocation costs. We will continue exploring these ideas over the upcoming months.
  • Click here to see a complete list of ongoing capital projects.

Curriculum Adoption

I have accepted recommendations made by the Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum Advisory Group and Middle School Science Adoption Committee to purchase and adopt new curriculum materials for next school year. The social emotional learning (SEL) curriculum includes Caring School Community (for elementary) and RULER (for middle school). The new science curriculum for middle school is Amplify. Click on the committee links to learn more about the advisory groups’ engaging and thoughtful processes.

Budget for 2018-19

It’s an interesting time for school districts across Washington state as we plan for next year and beyond. We are presenting the budget for the 2018-19 school year to the school board in the coming weeks, and while our budget shows the state directing more money to us to fully fund education, the amount of money we can collect through local levies is decreasing dramatically over the next couple of years (you may have heard of this concept called the “levy swap”). For part of the year, we retain our current higher local levy which results in “one time” funds that will not be sustained, posing a challenge for us and many other districts statewide. Given these complexities, we have worked hard to build a budget that balances the need to keep our district financially solvent over time, and at the same time addresses important immediate issues of increased salary and benefits for district employees, staffing needs in the schools, and one-time costs associated with things like curriculum, materials and equipment.

 

Thank you again for another inspiring year, and we look forward to seeing you in August!

Greg Baker