The existing Birchwood Elementary in Bellingham would be torn down and replaced with a new one-story school for as many as 400 students under the current proposal from Bellingham School District.
The district and architect Kelli Smith, from Everett-based Dykeman architecture, showed the preliminary drawings for Birchwood on Tuesday, Aug. 14, to the public and the Birchwood Neighborhood Association.
By and large, the handful of people at the meeting liked the design, which included a brick front on Pinewood Avenue that is a nod to the existing school, and a modern-looking back. It also has an emphasis on natural light including skylights and other green features, a covered play area shielded from the wind, small-group learning spaces, and a smaller gym that would be grouped with a cafeteria and stage.
The school garden and athletic field would remain where they are.
“The natural lighting that’s coming in, that’s just great,” said Doug Stark, a Birchwood parent and member of the neighborhood association.
“It all looks amazing. You have met or exceeded my expectations,” parent Darrell Gray told school officials.
Others at the meeting questioned the need to expand parking from 25 spaces to 44 — they wanted parking scaled back — and wondered why two portables would remain on site when a new school is being built, according to the preliminary designs.
Keeping portables provides extra space should it be needed because of growth, according to Ron Cowan, assistant superintendent for the school district.
It’s cheaper than removing all the portables from school grounds, he added, allowing the district to put more money into building the new school.
The current, worn-out school has been closed since fall 2011 as the school district, with the help of a committee, worked on a plan to renovate or rebuild it.
During previous meetings, community members weighed in with what they’d like to see, with some neighbors saying they wanted the brick school renovated rather than torn down, and others saying they didn’t want a new school that looked too modern.
Still other community members had said they favored a new and modern school.
The original building was constructed in 1928, with an addition in 1950.
The architect’s designs will be refined and later sent to the superintendent and school board for approval.
The project is scheduled to go out to bid and be built in the 2013-14 school year. Money to pay for it would come from state dollars and a 2006 bond approved by voters.
Learn more about the project by going to Bellingham School District online at bellinghamschools.org or to the Birchwood Elementary Remodel page on Facebook.
People may share their thoughts about the preliminary design until Wednesday, Aug. 22, by going to the school district website and clicking on the feedback form on the right.
Northwest Indian College will offer a second bachelor’s degree beginning this fall.
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities in May approved NWIC’s plan to offer the bachelor’s degree in native studies leadership, which college officials said would give students a chance to pursue a four-year degree rooted in tribal knowledge.
It is the second bachelor’s degree for the regional tribal college, which has its main campus on the Lummi Reservation and six extended campus sites at other reservations in Washington state and Idaho.
The first is a bachelor of science in native environmental science that NWIC has been offering since 2008.
The new bachelor’s program requires students to complete 180 credits in courses that include rights of tribes, native science, native governments and politics, and honoring traditional leadership.
“This new degree, native leadership study degree, it’s really foundational to who we are as a native college,” said Justin Guillory, president of NWIC.
The new program will serve as a “blueprint or model,” Guillory said, explaining that it will allow each tribal site to recognize its own cultural teachings and practices.
He said the new degree program was something Lummi and other tribal communities served by the college could be proud of, adding the hope was that it would give native students the chance to reclaim their heritage and preserve the rights of tribal nations in the future.
Guillory praised Sharon Kinley, director of the college’s Coast Salish Institute, and her staff for developing the new degree.
The college is working on offering more bachelor’s degrees, including in areas such as human services, tribal and business management, and teacher education.
The college’s fall semester begins Sept. 17.
In case you missed it, here’s the story about the new president of Northwest Indian College on the Lummi Reservation.
Washington Engineering Institute has joined the ranks of Whatcom County colleges offering a four-year degree.
The state Washington Student Achievement Council on July 27 gave the institute in Bellingham the authorization to offer a four-year bachelor of science in civil engineering technology.
The institute also received the OK to offer a new two-year associates of applied science in civil engineering technology.
Prior to the new designation, the institute’s students earned trade school certificates through its career school.
“It is our next stage in growth. It was planned. We did it. We are very happy,” said Dave C. Bren, president of the small private college in Haskell Business Park. “And we’re excited. But now comes the real work.”
The institute also offers continuing education coursework.
Founded in November 2009 with the help of Bellingham industry, the institute graduated its first group of students in June 2012.
Fall quarter classes, including for the new college courses, begin Sept. 4. There are openings for the new four-year and two-year programs.
Starting tuition for college courses will be $5,400 a year, among the lowest in the state for a four-year college, Bren noted.
“We have to because we’re just starting out,” he said.
Career school tuition will continue to be $3,600 a year.
The low tuition is a combination of factors that include a “very humble” facility and no administration, according to Bren.
“We just have the bare minimum to do what we need to do. We focus on teaching in the classroom,” said Bren, a civil engineer who also is the civil engineering technology instructor. “It doesn’t matter what the building looks like. It matters what instruction is happening inside the building.”
The new designation won’t bring a change in name, or hours.
The institute will continue to offer evening classes only — allowing students to work during the day and go to school at night and faculty to keep their day jobs.
Its teachers are professional engineers still working in their fields in public and private industry, according to Bren.
“This is an incredible opportunity for the local community,” he added. “What excites me is it’s home-grown.”
A new bachelor and associates degree offering from the institute comes as public officials and private industry worry about educating enough students to meet future demands for workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
Officials have said the need for what are known as STEM graduates is critical, in Washington state and nationally.
Within five years, for example, Washington state will have at least 5,000 STEM jobs left unfilled because there aren’t enough qualified candidates, according to a 2010 survey of employers conducted by the state Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board.
Additional information about the Washington Engineering Institute in Bellingham is online at weiedu.org. Or contact Admissions Director Kristina Daheim at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the institute’s new bachelor of science in civil engineering technology and associates of applied science in civil engineering technology.
Or call 360-739-1428.
The Mount Baker School Board has approved a $20.5 million budget for 2012-13 that includes teacher and other staff layoffs to help close a $1.9 million deficit.
The district also will spend $200,000 of its reserves in the next school year under the general fund budget approved July 26. The general fund pays for the school district’s daily operations.
The budget plans for continued declining enrollment, with 100 fewer students in the next school year.
“The only responsible way to budget is to expect a trend to continue,” said Charles Burleigh, the new superintendent for Mount Baker School District. “If we end up seeing more students, then that’s good news for Mount Baker.”
He added: “But we need to be responsible and budget for the worst case.”
School districts receive funding based on the number of students enrolled, not on the number of teachers and other staff. Once a district sets its baseline staffing in the spring for the following school year, the number of positions can increase but can’t decrease.
To help close the deficit, the district has laid off 10 teachers (or eight full-time equivalent positions) as well as cut the job of the director of transportation/maintenance and the curriculum director post that had been temporarily filled by an employee who was reassigned to another job. Classified staff also were affected, with layoffs and cutbacks in hours totaling three full-time equivalent positions.
Still, there’s a bright note in the coming year as the school district will be able to offer full-day kindergarten five days a week at all of its elementary schools beginning this fall.
Prior to the expansion, that schedule was available only at Kendall. Come fall, kindergarten at Acme and Harmony will grow from three days a week to five.
“It’s something that has been a priority for the school board for years, the focus on early childhood education. We’re very excited and look forward to this being an ongoing part of our program,” Burleigh said of expanding kindergarten.
The expansion also allowed the school district to bring back two teachers.
“They had been laid off and were recalled because we were able to do this,” Burleigh said.
Money for kindergarten expansion comes from Title 1 funds that are in a separate pot of money than the general fund.
Those funds — a substantial portion of which had been required to be set aside for tutoring programs run by outside agencies and for potential transportation costs — were freed up after Washington state received a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind requirements in July, giving the school district the chance to use the money in a way it couldn’t before.
Title 1 is a federal program that provides financial assistance to educational agencies and public schools that have high numbers of poor children, with the goal of helping those children meet state academic standards.
Burleigh said the district’s spending level is sustainable going into the future because of increasing levy amounts approved by voters in February.
The school district will be collecting the full amount of those levies beginning in the 2013-14 school year.
The Washington state Supreme Court has ruled that a search of a student’s backpack at a high school in Bellevue was illegal.
Click here to read the story.
The Meridian School Board approved a $17.5 million budget on Tuesday, July 31, that included a $100,000 rollback in levy collection for property owners in the school district.
“I am pleased to come into the Meridian School District and to have a board pass a budget in which no programs had to be cut, no layoffs for staff had to occur, and there also was enough money to do a rollback in tax collections to the community,” said Tom Churchill, Meridian’s new superintendent, of the 2012-13 spending plan.
The district’s school board voted unanimously earlier in July to roll back $100,000 in levy collection because the state didn’t cut levy equalization funding as feared. Such funding helps property-tax poor districts that can’t raise much revenue through taxes.
“I feel very fortunate to inherit a district that is talking about what can we add next rather than what do we have to cut next. This is not the norm around the state,” Churchill added.
Everson-based Tiger Construction will build a new two-story elementary school in the Meridian School District that, come fall 2013, will house students now split between Irene Reither Primary and Ten Mile Creek Elementary schools.
At its meeting Tuesday, July 31, the Meridian School Board awarded the construction contract to Tiger, which submitted the low bid of $11.8 million.
Two other firms also submitted bids: Bellingham-based Dawson Construction for $12.1 million, and Berschauer Phillips Construction out of Seattle for nearly $12.8 million.
Tiger also is doing the $25.4 million renovation of Meridian High School, which is under way and also is expected to be completed by fall 2013.
The new elementary school will be built behind the existing Irene Reither Primary School. Construction could start in August or early September.
“I think everybody’s anxious to get going on it while the weather’s nice,” said Tom Churchill, superintendent of Meridian School District.
Students at Irene Reither will stay put during construction.
“They can stay in Irene Reither all through the year, and the construction will happen basically where the playground is now. We won’t displace any of the students,” Churchill said.
The school board hasn’t yet picked a name for the new school, although it has been referred to, informally, as Meridian Elementary.
The board will take up naming in the coming school year.
The new elementary school is designed to accommodate up to 600 students. The current primary and elementary schools have about 563 students split between them.
The school board wanted to combine the two schools into one building to “eliminate duplicate administrative and operational costs,” Churchill said.
The current Irene Reither, which was built in 1973, will be demolished once the new 60,704-square-foot school has been built.
Ten Mile, built in 1992, will then house the district’s Meridian Parent Partnership Program, often referred to as MP3. The program lets parents partner with the school district to collaboratively educate their children. It’s like homeschooling, but with a network of professional educators providing curriculum and teaching support.
About 200 of the program’s 800 students come to the district to take classes — in a rented space at Laurel Community Baptist Church large enough to accommodate them and adequate as classroom space. But the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has told Meridian to move the program out of the church, which is next to the high school, and into a regular school facility.
Money for the elementary school build will come from a bond voters approved in February 2010 and up to $9.7 million that Meridian could receive in state construction funds.
Discussions originally centered on expanding and renovating either Ten Mile or Irene Reither, but officials ruled out those options in favor of building new after the board considered a number of studies, including for facility and engineering.
Reasons for building new included:
- Ten Mile’s layout didn’t work well for adding on to that school.
- Adding on to Irene Reither would have required complete upgrades for seismic, electrical and HVAC, as well as the building’s structure to bring it up to current energy codes.
- The district also would have had to rent a “portable village” to house students during a renovation and expansion, officials said.
Those factors, and others, rivaled the cost of building a new school, Churchill added.
“Finally, the state matching ratio is more favorable toward new construction compared to modernization in Meridian’s case,” he added.
Bellingham-based Zervas Group Architects is the architect for this project.
Taxpayers in the Meridian School District will pay less in property taxes in 2013.
The district’s school board voted unanimously earlier this month to roll back $100,000 in levy collection because the state didn’t cut levy equalization funding as feared, according to Tom Churchill, superintendent for Meridian.
Levy equalization funding helps property-tax poor districts that can’t raise much revenue through taxes.
Whether the rollback will continue in 2014 depends.
“The board will see what happens in the Legislature during the session in 2013 before deciding on a rollback for 2014,” Churchill said in an email.
The Ferndale School District is facing a $1.9 million deficit for the next school year, but officials said they will be able to close that gap without affecting programs for students.
The Ferndale School Board is set to approve the $51.3 million general fund budget Thursday, July 26. It will include drawing from reserves to cover the entire deficit if necessary.