Lowell Elementary students go back to school, and new building

New principal Mary Sepler greets students arriving for the first day of school at Lowell Elementary School on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015.
New principal Mary Sepler greets students arriving for the first day of school at Lowell Elementary School on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. The Bellingham Herald

Lowell Elementary students went back to school Wednesday, Aug. 26, to a new principal, Mary Sepler, and a new addition to their 101-year-old school.

The 9,400-square-foot building on the north side of the school along 15th Street houses a new cafeteria and kitchen, a music classroom that can be converted into a stage, indoor gym, and two basketball hoops in a covered play area that’s adjacent to the gym. The inside can be turned into one big gathering space.

“There’s a lot of versatility to it,” Sepler said of the new building, a bright, airy space that features windows with views of Bellingham Bay. “Beautiful spaces inspire you.”

Sepler had been the principal for Grant Street Elementary School in Port Townsend before coming to Lowell. Wednesday was the first day of school for Bellingham School District students, including those at Lowell. Other Whatcom County districts start classes next week.

The addition, part of a $4.3 million renovation project, looks like the older part of the school — just with brighter-colored red brick.

“The design really complements the original ‘grand lady,’ if you will, the original Lowell structure,” said Ron Cowan, executive director of capital projects and school facilities for Bellingham School District.

The project also brings Lowell up to par with other elementary schools in the district in that its students now have a regular-sized gym for an elementary school, a good-sized cafeteria and modern kitchen, and dedicated music classroom/stage, Cowan said.

The addition wasn’t the only work that was done. Where the small gym and cafeteria used to be in the original three-story building has been changed, allowing for three new classrooms and the school to increase its capacity by 75 students.

An elevator in the old building and new ramps also were part of the project, and help make the school more accessible for those with physical disabilities.

And the community can now use the new space because the gym and cafeteria can both be used as gathering places, Cowan said, adding that people tended to not do so previously.

“Before, the spaces were so small,” he said.

Parents at Lowell on the first day of school were happy with the project.

“They did a beautiful job. I’m excited that they expanded the school,” said Ashlea Rosinski, whose daughter Audria is in first grade and whose daughter Stella will start kindergarten there next year.

Tiger Construction of Everson was the builder. Everett-based Dykeman architects were the designers.

Lowell’s renovation was the first Bellingham School District project completed as part of a $160 million bond approved by voters in November 2013.

Other projects in the bond include rebuilding Sehome High School and Happy Valley Elementary and building a new Options/Innovations High School.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.