Ferndale mulling $125 million bond to rebuild high school

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 2, 2013 

FERNDALE - Ferndale School District's "woefully inadequate" high school could get a rebuild if voters pass a $125 million bond that is likely to be on ballots Feb. 11.

The bond - if it's approved for the ballot by the school board at its Dec. 17 meeting - will focus on the district's high school needs, with the biggest project a complete rebuild of Ferndale High School.

"Our high school is woefully inadequate. There are areas that haven't been touched for 50 to 60 years," Superintendent Linda Quinn said. "Our students are actually at a disadvantage. We have great teachers and great staff who are teaching in spite of the facility."

The bond is expected to increase property taxes by about $1.57 to $1.72 per $1,000 of a home's assessed value. That means the owner of a home valued at $200,000 would pay an additional $314 to $344 in property taxes if it passes.

"I haven't heard anybody really pushing back about the size of the bond, but I would expect that that would probably be a concern for some people," Quinn said.

The new two-story school would be built next to the current buildings. It would be less crowded, safer and better suited to provide career and technical education programs, Quinn said. The high school as it is doesn't have enough capacity for the tech programs the district would like to offer. The school received a donation of welding gear, but its electrical system couldn't handle it.

"There just is no place to go. We keep putting money in it to do Band-Aids, but it's still an inappropriate facility," Quinn said. "It's a facility that takes lots of resources to manage."

The district discussed remodeling the high school rather than a full rebuild, but Quinn said the cost to bring the campus up to date for modern education needs would have been more than rebuilding.

"We really need to serve our kids," Quinn said. "We have the staff, we have the desire to train kids to be employable in the state of Washington, but we don't have the facility. Technology is a whole other story. We can't support technology there."

The bond also would pay to move maintenance and transportation from the high school campus to a new facility on the back corner of the Mountain View Elementary property, still allowing enough space there for a school when the district's elementary needs increase.

Windward High School also would be addressed by the bond. Minor renovations would be done to create a more appropriate home for the alternative high school housed at North Bellingham Elementary . That work will leave room to add a new elementary school to the site in the future should it be needed.

The bond is part of a 30-year plan put together by the district's facilities advisory committee. If it passes, the district hopes to open the new high school in September 2016.

Reach ZOE FRALEY at zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com or call 756-2803.

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