BELLINGHAM - Within the next 10 years, Bellingham School District might close Larrabee Elementary and split its students between Lowell and a rebuilt Happy Valley elementary school.
The district also might rebuild Sehome High School and update or find a better home for Options High School and the district office.
Those are some of the district's facilities planning task force's long-term recommendations, which will be discussed at four public meetings in December. The first will be from 6 to 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, in Sehome High's cafeteria.
The task force included more than 30 members from the community and schools throughout the district who have been meeting for the past two and a half months to create recommendations for the district's buildings over the next 10 years.
To figure out needed improvements, the task force looked at buildings that were more than 20 years old, scoring them based on features such as physical condition, site condition and how they meet students' learning needs.
Here is a list of projects the task force might recommend to the district, although the ideas are not set in stone:
Elementary schools: The task force is looking at closing Larrabee and sending its students to Lowell and a new Happy Valley. The three schools are within a mile of each other.
Happy Valley's building isn't in good shape, but it's on enough property to build a new, larger school that could serve about 450 students and have more room for programs.
Lowell would need cafeteria, gym and elevator upgrades to accommodate the additional students.
Larrabee has 185 students in seven classrooms and two portables on a little more than an acre, so there is not much room for programs and no room to expand. The building has no elevators or ramps, so students with disabilities have to go elsewhere.
On the north side, Parkview would be renovated to have a separate gym and cafeteria, as well as other changes.
The changes are estimated to cost $29 million, not including what the district would save closing Larrabee.
Sehome High: The school was built in 1966, with an update in 1983. Its sprawling, single-story campus has many entrances and exits, creating safety issues, and it doesn't offer a large common area for students and the community to gather. The structure and major systems need replacing, and it scored the lowest in the district - tied with Happy Valley - for its physical condition. The cost estimate for the project is $73 million.
Options High School: The district's alternative high school is located behind Bellingham High School in seven portables, with one unisex bathroom and no standard classrooms, labs, gym or gathering space. Task force members weren't sure if the school should be rebuilt on other district property, such as Sehome's 40-acre lot, or in its current location.
They hope to create a larger permanent space for Options to allow more students to enroll and to encourage students to stay in the school. That could cost about $10 million to $17 million, depending on where it's rebuilt.
District office: The administrative office at 1306 Dupont St. is in a building more than 100 years old that hasn't had an earthquake retrofit and is not accessible for people with disabilities. It also doesn't have much space for staff to meet with groups of teachers.
The office could be moved to another district property, be housed within or next to a new school, or move into a mixed-use commercial space. That could cost about $10 million to $17 million, depending on where the offices move.
Transportation center: The bus garage and shop on James Street hasn't had significant improvements since it was built in the 1950s. It doesn't have a proper ventilation system, some of the floor is gravel, and there's only one bay with a lift to service buses. Improvements could cost an estimated $4 million.
Facilities maintenance. The district wants to do energy-saving and preventive maintenance work on its buildings, including new roofs, exterior paint, windows and flooring at some schools. That could cost about $6 million.
The task force will meet again in January to update its recommendations, based on public input, before passing them on to Superintendent Greg Baker. In February, Baker will use the recommendations to form a plan that he will present to the community for more input.
The district could seek a bond as early as next spring for as much as $139 million to cover the projects, although the amount may change as the plan changes.
The facilities task force is seeking input from community members on its recommendations for Bellingham School District's 10-year facility plan. The task force will host four public meetings to explain the plan and to hear concerns, questions and suggestions from the public.
- Monday, Dec. 3: 6 to 7 p.m., Sehome High School cafeteria.
- Wednesday, Dec. 5: 6 to 7 p.m., Whatcom Middle School cafeteria.
- Thursday, Dec. 6: 6 to 7 p.m., Shuksan Middle School cafeteria.
- Monday, Dec. 10: 6 to 7 p.m., Fairhaven Middle School cafeteria.
There also will be a survey available online at bellinghamschools.org through Dec. 14.
Reach ZOE FRALEY at email@example.com or call 756-2803.