Ferndale bond will allow school to provide modern education

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 26, 2014 

Ferndale High School was built in 1933 and expanded and changed a number of times over the next 80 years. The school's teachers and staff provide excellent programs, but they do so in spite of aging facilities that are no longer cost effective or educationally effective. To address this situation, the Ferndale School District is putting before voters a bond measure to replace Ferndale High School.

This project is phase two of the school district's 30-year facilities plan, which was developed over the course of the past four years by the facilities advisory committee. Committee members and district leadership have worked with several outside experts on pre-planning and developing conceptual design for the new high school.

While a detailed architectural design will not be completed until citizens approve the bond and we can collect input from staff and community, we do have a vision for a new, larger high school facility (250,000-plus square feet compared to 212,000 we have currently) constructed on the same campus just north of the existing school.

We envision a sturdy two-story building, with a prominent, well-lit front entry plaza; an energy-efficient design; and up-to-date security features, including cameras and automatic locking systems. By putting all buildings under one roof, we will not only be able to provide a more efficient campus (we estimate up to $90,000 per year savings in energy and operations costs), but also a much safer one (our current school has more than 70 exterior doors).

Inside the building, all classrooms in the new school will be equipped for modern technology and the kind of modern lighting, acoustics, and air quality that is associated with better learning and health. Science labs will reflect Washington state's 2013 adoption of Next Generation Science Standards, which future students will need to meet to be college and career ready.

The new school will include an inviting cafeteria/multipurpose room large enough to accommodate at least half of the student body for lunch as well as a variety of other student and community functions, such as meetings, banquets and dances. It will include a student commons area, multiple spaces for shared learning and collaboration, a modern library/multi-media center and a state-of-the-art theater complex where students can study the technical aspects of production as well as participate and/or view performances.

We anticipate the theme of "building as textbook" will be carried out in other spaces as well, such as a district kitchen that can also serve as the site of a modern culinary arts program and a student store that can provide business and marketing experience.

Ferndale High School has always been known for its outstanding vocational/career and technical programs. With input from our business and industry partners, the new school will provide spaces for these programs to thrive and grow. Currently the facility's limitations prevent us from using the kinds of equipment our students need to learn how to use to be hired by major employers in our region.

The bond measure will include a gymnasium designed for maximum use by both the school district and the community and a new stadium with artificial turf, an all-weather track, covered seating, handicap accessibility, improved concessions and restroom facilities. The bond will also provide a number of athletic fields that can be used year-round by district students and the community.

We plan to incorporate an off-street bus loading zone separate from the student drop-off area, to almost double the number of parking spaces on campus; and to improve access and egress routes to dramatically improve traffic flow.

If voters approve the bond, students will remain in the existing school while the new school is being built (a plan that will save several million dollars in temporary housing costs). Once the new school is built, which could be as early as 2016, students will vacate the existing facility, it will be taken down, and the athletic and outdoor learning spaces will be built in its place.

I know some people are worried about not having a specific architect's design already drawn before the district proposes the bond. Sometimes when a school district has enough money, the design work is done before running the bond. Oftentimes, however, districts take the approach we are taking, running the bond before they create specific drawings.

For instance, Meridian School District recently passed a bond to rebuild Meridian High School without an architect's design. After they passed the bond, they worked with their community to develop the design.

Ballots will be in mailboxes this week. If you have any questions about the district's plan for the bond, feel free to call me or one of my colleagues at 360-383-9207.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Linda Quinn is superintendent of the Ferndale School District.

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