Lynden residents asked to reinvest in education with bond

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 17, 2013 

On Feb. 11, 2014, Lynden School District residents will have the opportunity to approve a capital facility bond to replace two ailing schools: Lynden Middle School and Fisher Elementary School. Community members in Lynden will invest in the future of the Lynden schools and the Lynden community by providing badly needed educational facilities that will serve students and community for the next 50 years and beyond.

The new school facilities will replace two schools that are more than 50 years old and in doing so will provide an educational environment that supports a 21st century educational program. All our current facilities bonds have been paid off: Bernice Vossbeck Elementary School in December 2010 and the bond for Isom Elementary School in 2006. The Lynden School District does not have any capital bond debt. It is time to reinvest in our schools and community.

Both the Fisher and Lynden Middle School facilities have served the students and community well but are worn out. They are past their functional life span. Each facility continues to require maintenance beyond routine measures and will require extensive and costly updating if the schools are not replaced. This will continue to put pressure on the general fund budget, requiring funds to address the needs of these old schools, (which will remain old schools with insufficient space and configurations regardless of any improvements made). Each school will continue to require time and resources that should be used to support student learning and educational programs.

The original facilities at Fisher were constructed in 1961 with at least five additions in subsequent years. Original construction on the Lynden Middle School facilities began in 1936 and the school has experienced multiple additions. The nature of the original construction and multiple additions in both schools has created a haphazard arrangement of classrooms and support space with limited lab space, crowded common spaces such as hallways, cafeterias, offices and limited areas for small group instruction. Both schools have portions that are in disrepair, make routine safety and security measures difficult and do not provide the educational environment necessary to support a 21st century education through effective learning spaces.

A 21st century education includes:

Space for students and staff to team and collaborate in small groups as well as whole classes;

The integration of technology in a seamless application for learning in all spaces rather than only in a computer lab;

The ability to manipulate learning tools in a variety of circumstances to support hands-on and experiential learning;

The ability to utilize space that encourages creative thinking, problem solving and the synthesis and analysis of information, connecting students to the world outside the school walls via digital information networks;

Libraries that foster learning, the use of print and digital resources, access to content in both print and electronic forms, and the spatial environment that serves a variety of learning styles.

In addition, new school facilities will provide a safer and more secure environment for students as the current schools were not designed with the same safety and security expectations we have for modern schools. It will be impossible to fully address safety and security needs by upgrading and remodeling the facilities as they are currently arranged.

Between 2005 and 2013 a number of studies have been conducted and information gathered from staff and community to identify the most essential facility needs and to determine the best method to address those needs. From each study it was confirmed that the best course of action, and most cost effective and educationally beneficial method to address our facility needs, was to replace both Fisher Elementary School and Lynden Middle School. It is less expensive to build new facilities than remodel the old facilities. Other facility needs were identified through the facility study process and are included in the long term capital facility plan. But the urgent needs at Fisher and Lynden Middle School are the most essential and need to be addressed immediately before other projects are considered.

Good school facilities support and enhance a high-quality learning experience. We need schools that are safe for students, accessible to parents and community members, have updated and efficient systems that support and enhance learning (mechanical, electrical, technology). This bond is an investment in the future for our students and the Lynden community for years to come.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jim Frey is superintendent of the Lynden Public Schools. The school bond will be on the Feb. 11, 2014 ballot.

The date of the election was corrected Sept. 17, 2013.

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