Students start classes in new, $103 million, mariners-inspired Sehome High School

Students filled the halls of Sehome High School’s new building for the first time on Wednesday as the spring semester started.

The new school and grounds project includes a variety of improvements for its 1,200 students, from more community spaces to a centralized counseling and career center, and will cost $103 million once complete. Voters approved a $160 million bond in 2013 to build new schools and update others.

Yoshimi Lin, a junior at Sehome, said in an interview with The Bellingham Herald that students were told the Mariners’ new school design reflects that of a ship, with the most important parts, including the school’s commons, being at its center.

This was an important design element, Sehome principal Michelle Kuss-Cybula said, because in the past it was common to get lost in Sehome’s California-inspired school layout, which forced students and faculty outside between classes.

Now, the building’s streamlined design will help encourage an inclusive community, Kuss-Cybula told The Bellingham Herald in an interview.

Knowing how long the previous school was utilized, it also was important to have innovative and flexible spaces that could be used for different classes 50 years from now, she said.

“It’s good to come in with that perspective of ‘what are the elements in the old building that we can bring into this building in a tasteful, classic, enduring manner that’s going to stand the test of time?’” Kuss-Cybula said.

With that in mind, the design advisory committee, which Kuss-Cybula was part of, opted to reuse anchors, a giant ship’s wheel and even portions of the old gym’s floor in the new school’s design.

Along with the additions from the old building, which opened in 1966, the new school boasts 36 classrooms, 11 labs, a 400-seat theater, two gyms and a library with an outside deck.

Yoshimi Lin, a junior at Sehome High School, said the new school will motivate students to learn. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

Lin, who did walk-throughs during construction, said Wednesday’s opening wasn’t what she expected.

“Just walking into the new school and seeing how great and big it is was like, ‘Wow, this is something that actually became a reality,’” Lin said.

Lin predicted this new experience may help motivate her fellow students to learn in the long run.

While a ribbon cutting event will be held at 4 p.m. Friday, the full project is not yet near completion.

According to the Bellingham School District website, the Sehome project, including the demolition of the old school and completion of parking lots and sports fields, will be completed by August 2019.

Lights illuminate Sehome High School’s main entrance on the first day of classes held in the new building Wednesday. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald
Lacey Young is a visual journalist who interned at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, NASA’S Goddard Space Flight Center and Minnesota Public Radio. She’s a University of Montana graduate and life-long Washingtonian.