BPS named “green ribbon school” and facilities update

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

Dear students, staff, families and community,

With the last day of school quickly approaching, we want to share some quick updates about our facilities and construction projects and how they relate to our ongoing work to provide outstanding, sustainable schools for our community.

The U.S. Department of Education announced in April that our district is among this year’s Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Awardees. We were named a Washington State Green Ribbon District leader by the Department of Environment and Sustainability Education in the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction (OSPI) and our nomination was elevated to the national level.

OSPI visited Birchwood Elementary Monday to tour its garden, meet with students and staff, and learn more about our commitment to sustainability as well as the benefits of outdoor education. First grade teacher Kelly Morgan shared the positive impact the garden has on students, especially in areas of social emotional learning, science and art.

Three photo grid with (1) three people holding green ribbon trophy (2) lots of adults and kids posting for photo in field and (3) three adults with trophy

We are honored to be selected for this distinction and to hear that our district exemplifies the kind of model that OSPI is seeking for the “green ribbon” designation. Our commitment to sustainable practices in our schools became even more evident in February with the passage of our 2022 facilities bond that included additional funding for continued focus in this area. Earlier this year, we kicked off a Sustainability Task Force with the idea of recommending a strategic plan that reflects our aspirations for integrating sustainability throughout the district, including facilities and operations, teaching and learning, and habits and culture. This award propels and inspires new learning and best practices for our staff and community.

In addition to this news, we wanted to share other updates about school construction and facilities projects:

  • Sunnyland: the new replacement school will open this August! We will be hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony for students, staff, families and community members in September. The new building welcomes students in a central hub, with community focused spaces to the north, including a new full-size gymnasium and classroom wing to the south. The new two-story structure is approximately 58,000 square feet, which includes 24 new classrooms, offices and a commons space adjacent to performing arts and kitchen. Adjacent to Memorial Park, the site features a commuter trail along the park, outdoor patio seating adjacent to the commons and new inclusive playgrounds. Mindful of the neighborhood craftsman styling, the architecture reflects craftsman detailing inside and out and leans forward with sustainable energy improvements, including Bellingham Public Schools first central heat pump system and a solar ready roof.
  • We are breaking ground on the new District Office this Friday, June 17. Dawson Construction will be our contractor and crews have already started prepping the site. The new District Office includes an early childhood center and spaces for meetings and professional development for our staff and our community. We plan to open by fall/winter of 2023.
  • We are continuing to invest in school safety improvements across our schools, including security cameras, which are now installed at all middle and high schools. We expect to install at all elementary schools by 2023. We are also in the process of improving our intercom systems, especially in portables, and access control in schools.
  • Thanks to our community’s support of our bond in February, we are working to plan and design new schools for Columbia, Carl Cozier and Roosevelt elementary schools. We have formed an ad hoc committee that includes representatives from the city to determine the order in which these schools will be rebuilt.
  • Due to permitting challenges, a few projects are on hold, including new tennis courts at Bellingham and Squalicum high schools and the Gordon Carter Environmental Education Site. We are optimistic that we will be able to complete these projects by summer 2023.

We are so grateful for your support of our district and our belief that our children and community deserve safe, sustainable, and inspiring spaces for learning.

Greg Baker