Nooksack Valley school board approves $27.9 million bond to send to voters

A 67-year-old middle school in Nooksack Valley could finally be replaced if voters approve a new bond proposal in February 2015.

The Nooksack Valley School District will send a $27.9 million, 20-year bond to voters with most of the money earmarked for the replacement of Nooksack Valley Middle School, which was originally constructed in 1947. The rest of the money would be used to add four classrooms at Nooksack Elementary School and replace or upgrade portions of the high school.

“We’ve known that the middle school needed to be replaced for a number of years,” said Nooksack Valley Superintendent Mark Johnson.

The bond would raise taxes $1.76 per $1,000 of a home’s assessed value, which translates to $440 for a home valued at $250,000. That is cheaper for taxpayers than the previous bond that expired in 2013 and averaged $2.38 per $1,000, or $595 for the owner of a $250,000 home.

The state is expected to match an estimated $7.4 million, about 21 percent of the overall cost, once the bond is passed that would go toward the middle school replacement and high school renovations. Johnson said school facilities are eligible for state matching funds once every 30 years.

Joel VanderYacht, the middle school principal, said there are some obvious deficiencies at the current middle school. Some areas, like the cafeteria and the gym, are too small for a student body of more than 350, he said.

VanderYacht said the gym is about 75 percent the size of a normal gym, and the locker rooms are “extremely small.” He said the boys locker room has no working shower.

The new school would have 21 classrooms, the same amount at the current school, VanderYacht said. But there would be extra space in the building overall, with the district anticipating some enrollment growth in three years when the new school would be close to being finished.

The recommendation for a new building was made by an 18-member committee, comprised of community members including parents, teachers, board members and administrators.

The middle school replacement would cost $22 million, with the local share being $18 million and the state covering the rest. The additional classrooms at the elementary school would cost more than $2 million with no state match, and the high school renovations would cost $7.6 million for local taxpayers with the state matching roughly $3.5 million.

VanderYacht said the committee considered four different options for improving the middle school, from a remodel to a complete replacement. They settled on the replacement, believing it would be more economically sound in the long term.

“We want a building that’s going to last into the future,” VanderYacht said.