Amount of insurance money to rebuild Whatcom Middle School still unclear



Kyle Lukes, left, and Austin Bennett, both of Dawson Construction Inc., dig a hole at the base of Whatcom Middle School on January 28, 2010. The hole will allow geotechnihal engineers to assess the integrity of the foundation due to the hundreds of gallons of water that were used to put out the fire.


BELLINGHAM - Many questions remain unanswered about the Nov. 5 Whatcom Middle School fire, including the cause and exactly how much money insurance companies will provide, but some details are emerging.

Ron Cowan, assistant superintendent of business and operations for the Bellingham School District, has estimated the total loss around $20 million, including the building and its contents.

Insurance will cover rebuilding Whatcom according to "like-kind and quality" standards as well as turning it into an environmentally friendly building. Insurance also may cover some upgrades for modern-day code requirements that are common for newly built schools.

Actual costs and what will be covered haven't been determined yet due to unknowns about how much rebuilding and remodeling will be needed. District officials expect to receive a full structural report from engineers this spring, which will help them determine what options they have.

Until the report comes, Bellingham-based Dawson Construction Co. will continue doing work at the site, including recovering personal items.

Crews will also start working on shoring up the second-floor walls after permitting is completed with the city.

Other work going on at the site in coming weeks will include documenting and testing the materials used to construct the school and geotechnical testing of the site.

Once officials have a better idea of what is feasible and necessary with the building, they can move forward with architectural and educational plans for the Halleck Street site.

As with other school construction projects, the district will create a design advisory committee composed of students, parents, staff and community members.

Reach KIRA M. COX at or call 715-2266. Visit her School Days blog at or get updates on Twitter at

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