School bond needed to serve Ferndale High students of today

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 13, 2013 

I am writing in support of Ferndale School District's bond issue to build a desperately needed "new" Ferndale High School. I am the proud Principal of Ferndale High School. I am extremely aware of the state of our campus, its current limitations and its proud past. My hope is that the Ferndale community recognizes the need for a new Ferndale High and supports its construction.

I'd like to share some facts about Ferndale High. In terms of student enrollment, we are the largest high school in Whatcom County. Our campus and facilities are the largest in the county. In my opinion, we also have the best students and staff in the county. Unfortunately, we also have the dubious distinction of having the oldest and most antiquated high school campus.

Like every parent, I want my daughters to go to a high school that will keep them as safe as possible, provide them with elective class options, and allow them to experience the kind of industry-standard technology that will prepare them for life after high school. Currently, I am not able to provide those things for our students to the degree that I would like and to the extent they deserve. Our campus is comprised of more than half dozen buildings with over 70 exterior entrances, which limits our ability to assure proper access control. In terms of elective classes and technology, the infrastructure limitations of our facility simply won't allow us to upgrade equipment in many cases.

I have been asked the question, "Why not just remodel what is already there?" This is a fair question. In order to truly move Ferndale High into the 21st century in terms of safety, elective programs, technology and preparation for 21st century jobs we need a "clean slate." Our community Facilities Advisory Committee has made the recommendation of replacing Ferndale High as a more cost-effective solution that will address the deficiencies of overcrowded hallways, classrooms and common spaces. It will also provide classrooms and adequate infrastructure for technology/career technical education programs and increase campus safety by increasing access control by having almost everything in one building. At this point, while no plans have been developed or drawn, the concept of building a new multi-story facility on our existing campus, while our students remain in our current buildings, makes the most logistical and financial sense for our community. We have ample room to the north of our "new gym" near our practice fields to build a new multi-story campus. The term "new gym" in itself is a statement about the age of our campus, since it is almost 40 years old.

Since our "Old Main" building was constructed in 1933, our campus has undergone ten or more major remodels, renovations and/or additions of differing scope and size. These projects, while necessary at the time, have resulted in a mishmash of classrooms, hallways, heating, electrical, plumbing and technology system that has resulted in adding Band-Aid after Band-Aid to our campus to keep them all operational. Band-Aids are meant to be temporary fixes that eventually need to be addressed. My hope is that now is the time we will address them -- for today's students and all of the students who follow.

Ferndale High School has a long and rich history of student achievement, in the classroom, on the performance stage and in athletic competitions. Our facility is now becoming a limiting factor for how our staff can support our students. I urge the voters of Ferndale School District to please support the building of a "new" Ferndale High School so we can continue to say, "it's a matter of pride," for the generations of students to come.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Kombol is principal of Ferndale High School.

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