Facilities Update: A Message from Superintendent Baker

Dear Families and Community,

I would like to take a few minutes and give you an update on our new facilities.  Exciting times!

First, our new Happy Valley Elementary School opened this August as planned, as well as Parkview Elementary School’s new cafeteria, kitchen and music classroom/stage, and are a great source of pride for these school communities.

The next projects currently underway are:

Sehome High SchoolThe 35-member Sehome Educational Specifications/Design Advisory Committee has been meeting and working with Dykeman Architects since last November to help plan the new Sehome High School. After the committee submitted its recommended schematic design last spring, Dykeman Architects and Dawson Construction have been have been working collaboratively over the summer to further refine the initial site and building design while allowing for current construction costs, site topography challenges and new storm water regulations. The committee will reconvene later this month to review this work and consider preparing an updated recommended schematic design, which will be shared with students, families, staff and neighbors. Part of the review includes further exploration about where the Central Kitchen should be located – on Sehome’s campus as originally planned or at another location. 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. Students will attend the existing Sehome while the new Sehome is under construction, similar to Happy valley’s construction project. The new Sehome is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019.

Options High School (View Web Cam)For the first time in 23 years, Options High School students did not start the school year in portables. Bellingham High school has temporarily vacated a wing of its school in the One Schoolhouse spirit for Options students and staff until the new Options opens. Options’ portables have been relocated from the Franklin Street site across the district to meet a variety of needs and make way for construction to begin. Tiger construction has been working hard on the new school including site preparation, constructing footings and installing underground plumbing and electrical utilities. We are also partnering with RAM construction to remove some contaminated soil in some areas of the site (portions of the site long ago contained several rail spurs as well as a sash and door manufacturing plant). To keep cyclists and pedestrians safely away from construction, there will be temporary detours of the city’s  bicycle/pedestrian trail between Ohio and Kentucky streets. The detour route will follow Ohio Street to Grant Street to Kentucky Street back to Franklin Street.  Eventually, the trail will be re-established using a portion of the existing trail as well as new sidewalks and a bike corridor on Franklin Street. The Options High School Educational Specifications/Design Advisory Committee concluded its work and submitted design recommendations to me last June. This new 52,000 square foot Options will be a small high school design, complete with classrooms, science labs, art classroom, gymnasium, cafeteria, performing arts stage and small theater auditorium, Career and Technical Education ( CTE) programs and space for a third district teen parent program ( GRADS) and a pre-school area. Although the permitting process took longer than anticipated, resulting in a delayed start of construction, we are hopeful the new Options will be ready to open in the fall of 2017.

High School Fields (View Web Cam)Our first all-weather synthetic turf field allowing year-round use at Squalicum High School is nearing completion (see photo below).

The new field will support physical education, extra-curricular activities, athletics and community use. The project includes some spectator seating, energy efficient LED lighting and a newly resurfaced running track. 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. A High School Turf Fields Advisory Group provided a recommendations for 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 Sehome High School fields when they are installed.

Gordon Carter Conservation SiteBased on the work of our Gordon Carter Environmental Learning Center Vision Advisory Group’s recommendation, we are preparing for infrastructure improvements on the 130 acres of conservation land that the district owns on the south end of Lake Whatcom. As part of this bond, we plan to build a small structure for future outdoor education programming.

This bond is having a significant positive impact for so many in our community, and we are very grateful to our voters who supported these projects in 2013.

Thank you,
Greg Baker