BELLINGHAM - Rebuilding Sehome High School and closing Larrabee Elementary are two of the recommendations a Bellingham School District task force has passed along to the superintendent.
The facilities planning task force is made of up more than 30 people from the community and schools who were asked to come up with recommendations for district buildings over the next decade. The group shared its ideas at public meetings in December and incorporated community feedback.
The recommendations cost about $157 million, which could be paid for by a bond voters would have to approve.
Here is what the task force recommended to Superintendent Greg Baker, in order of priority.
- Rebuild Sehome High School: The school is 46 years old, and its sprawling, single-story campus has many entrances and exits, creating safety and energy-efficiency issues. The structure and major systems need replacing, and scored lowest in the district for its physical condition.
A new school would be built in a different part of the property while students remain in the current buildings. The rebuild could include turf fields, and a centralized kitchen that would serve all district schools, ideas that came from the task force's public meetings. The cost estimate is $73 million, including the kitchen and fields. Synthetic football fields at Squalicum and Bellingham high schools would cost an additional $5 million.
- Build a new Options High School: The district's alternative high school is currently located behind Bellingham High School in seven portables, with no labs, gym, lunchroom or common space. The new school also could be a home for future innovative programs. A location for the school is undecided. If the school is moved into the building that currently houses the district office, renovations would cost $17 million.
- Build a new district office: The current 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. Major systems, such as plumbing, electrical and heating, need to be replaced, and there isn't sufficient space for meetings and group work. It would cost $17 million to renovate the building, whether it's used for Options or remains the district office. If a new district office were built at Sehome or on other district property, that would cost an estimated $10 million.
- Southside elementary changes: The task force recommends closing Larrabee and sending those students to Lowell Elementary and a new Happy Valley Elementary. The three schools are within a mile of each other.
Happy Valley's building is in poor shape, but it's on enough property to build a new, larger school. Lowell would need cafeteria, gym and elevator upgrades to accommodate additional students, but Larrabee is old, too small, and its property doesn't have enough room to expand to meet it needs.
On the north side, Parkview Elementary would be renovated to have a separate gym and cafeteria, as well as other changes.
Those changes are estimated to cost $29 million.
- Update transportation facility: The bus garage and shop on James Street was built in the 1950s. It lacks a proper ventilation system, some of the floor is gravel, and there's only one lift to service buses. A second lift would allow staff to better use their time. Upgrading and modernizing the facility would cost about $4 million.
- School maintenance: The district wants to do preventive maintenance work on its buildings, including new roofs, exterior paint, windows and flooring at some schools. Energy-efficiency upgrades also could save the district money. Community members put a high priority on safety and security upgrades, so the task force included them in its recommendation, too. Estimated cost for the work is $8 million.
A second tier of projects, including turf baseball fields at Squalicum and Bellingham high schools and renovations at elementary schools, is estimated to cost $11.3 million.
Superintendent Baker will review the recommendations and host additional public meetings, though no dates have been chosen.
READ THE RECOMMENDATIONS
To read the facilities planning task force's full recommendation to Bellingham School Superintendent Greg Baker, go to bellinghamschools.org and click on the "Facilities Planning Task Force" link on the left side of the screen.
The page includes links for the full recommendations and for a brochure that summarizes the recommendations and includes the next steps in the process.