Wanted: Ideas on where to house Whatcom students next year

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 11, 2009 

BELLINGHAM - Integrating Whatcom Middle School students into existing middle schools, renting a non-district building or quickly building the school on Aldrich Road are suggestions for handling displaced Whatcom students and staff after this school year.

The Bellingham School District put out an online survey Friday, Dec. 11, to gather input on where Whatcom Middle School students and staff should be relocated after this school year while they wait for Whatcom to be rebuilt. The school was severely damaged in a Nov. 5 fire, and while district officials plan to rebuild the school, it could take more than two years to finish.

People can comment on 10 scenarios created by district officials or provide ideas of their own. The suggested scenarios are only ideas and haven't been researched to determine how feasible any of them would be, said Tanya Rowe, spokeswoman for the district.

THE 10 SCENARIOS

1. Double shifting at an existing middle school. Double shifting requires one group of students to attend school from early morning through the afternoon and a second group to attend from midday through late afternoon or possibly early evening.

2. Double shifting at an existing high school.

3. Incoming Whatcom sixth-graders attend Happy Valley or Geneva elementary schools, Whatcom seventh- and eighth-graders are integrated into the three remaining middle schools based on new temporary middle school boundaries that haven't been created yet. Integration means there would be no separate classes for Whatcom students.

4. Whatcom students are split by grade, with each grade being integrated into a different school where space is available.

5. Whatcom students are split by grade and attend three separate schools but are not integrated into the host schools. This is the type of scenario currently being used through the end of the school year.

6. Lease a non-district site that meets legal school facility requirements and students' learning needs for some or all of the grade levels. Specific location recommendations are encouraged.

7. Temporarily create K-6 schools where space is available and integrate seventh- and eighth-graders into existing middle schools according to temporary middle school boundaries.

8. Integrate all Whatcom students into the three existing middle schools according to temporary boundaries. Students would not be split by grade level.

9. Whatcom students are split by grade level and integrated into the other middle schools.

10. Build the Aldrich Road Elementary School as soon as possible and house Whatcom students and staff there. The school wouldn't be completed until the 2011-12 school year, so students and staff would still need a home for the 2010-11 school year. The Aldrich Road project could be ready for bid in about 45 days, and the project would not delay or slow the process to rebuild Whatcom.

How will the decisions be made?

After the online survey ends Monday, Jan. 4, the list of scenarios will be narrowed to the most viable two or three options.

After the crowd at a packed school board meeting Thursday, Dec. 10, asked for more parental and staff involvement in the process, Whatcom administrators and possibly others will help district officials narrow the options.

The public will then have another chance to comment on the final scenarios before Brown makes a recommendation to the school board at the end of January.

What criteria will be used to make the decision?

Whatever scenario is ultimately chosen must meet the following criteria, developed by district officials:

• Students must experience as comprehensive of a middle school program as possible, which includes maximum use of instructional time, a variety of elective options, availability of technology, extra-curricular options and availability of appropriate instructional materials.

• All students must experience the best possible environment for learning.

• Any facility must meet school-related needs and legal requirements including cafeteria space, physical education space, transportation access, space to accommodate a variety of electives, special needs and disability accommodations, technology and network access and restrooms to accommodate students and staff.

• The plan must be economically feasible.

• The plan must take into account the impact on instructional program, staffing allocations and the impact on all school communities.


GIVE YOUR INPUT

To take the relocation plan survey online, click here.

The survey will stay open until noon Monday, Jan. 4, the first day of school after winter break.

Reach KIRA M. COX at kira.cox@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2266. Visit her School Days blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/schools or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamSchools.

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