The next Birchwood Neighborhood Association will be meeting on Tuesday, May 28nd, from 6:30-8:00pm, in Shuksan Middle School library. Join us at our May meeting for neighborhood information and conversation.
6:30-6:40- Social time (no pizza since we are in the library)
6:40-7:00- Community Energy Challenge – Emily Kubiak- 20 min
7:00-7:20- Puget Sound Energy – Pinky Vargas – 20 min
7:20-7:35- Food Bank’s Victory Gardens- Laura Banks Will- 15 min
7:35-7:50- Kulshan Community Land Trust- Jill Clark- 15 min
7:50-8:00 – Announcements (picnic, etc.)
Visit the following City website for more information on Squalicum Park plans:
Squalicum Park Phase 3 plans website: http://www.cob.org/government/departments/parks/projects/squalicum-creek-park-phase-3.aspx
The Bellingham School District had an update meeting to review the Birchwood Elementary Schematic Design on August 14th in the Board Room at the District Office, 1306 Dupont St.
For anyone who could not attend the meeting on August 14, the plans are available on the District's website: http://bellinghamschools.org/sites/default/files/BirchwoodFacilityUpdate2012.pdf
Check Bellingham School District's website to see updates on the Birchwood remodel:
Board member, April Baker, had a meeting with Bellingham School District Asst. Superintendent Ron Cowan, regarding questions she had about the Birchwood remodel. The following is a synopsis of their discussion, with her questions followed by Ron’s answer.
A) Previously there was some confusion of “the numbers” and why “400 students”?
2 classrooms per grade: 12 classrooms @ 25 student = 300 students
3classrooms to house special programs yet to be determined (i.e. special education, preschool, life skills, specialized programs etc): 3 classroom @ 25 students = 75 students
1 versatile computer lab (off library) that could be used as a future classroom @ 25 students
All totaled = 400 student capacity.
All of these classrooms were discussed and agreed upon by the ad-hoc committee and most classrooms were suggested to have a flexible design to accommodate growth and changes in programs and population throughout the coming years.
B) Why are we building for 400 children on less than 5 acre?
The Bellingham School District standard for elementary school design is 550 children. Birchwood is being built to a capacity of 400 to due to the size of the site. Also, “capacity” can be a misleading term. The capacity is not necessarily the ultimate goal of the school, but the outcome of the numbers (see above) and what the school population could be at some point in the future. The Ad-Hoc committee was in agreement that BW needed 2 classes per grade as well as available classrooms for the possibility of specialized programs. No one knows what those programs will be 3,5,10 yrs from now but them might include things like world language, accelerated learning, life skills, preschool, etc. if/when the funding comes available.
C) There was confusion in BW population at closing & how many will attend BW upon opening.
According to Bellingham public school enrollment, BW housed 254 children in 2010-11, before it closed for the project. Prior to 10-11 the enrollment was consistently at 300 or above with 355 students in 2003-04. There has been a suggestion from PTA that 200 children will return to BW from Cordata, however that number is not exact and the district has not done a study to determine that number. Even with a study some children might request a transfer to stay at Cordata. Those that transferred out of BW/Cordata may choose to come back to BW. Other students may choose to transfer into BW from other neighborhood schools. Thus the number of student’s upon reopening is unknown.
D) Which lines are the attendance lines for BW? Are those lines going to change?
Birchwood will have attendance lines that run south of McLeod. As approved by the school board in 2007 after a year-long boundary study was completed. These are the same boundaries that exist today and can be seen on the district’s website (http://bellinghamschools.org/) choose Schools and Attendance Areas. These boundaries are smaller and closer to Birchwood than the previous boundaries because much of the northern boundary area is now part of Cordata. The lines closely resemble the BW neighborhood lines. There are no current plans to change the attendance lines. When attendance lines are changed there is a rigorous process that involves a committee of community and staff.
E) Will BW absorb growth to the north?
Growth is inevitable to the north. Several properties are currently under construction off of June road (toward Cordata) and there is property out toward king/queen mountain that is available for development as the population demands it. As this growth happens all of our community schools will have to accommodate the population demands. BW is not the sole absorber of that growth and may not be affected at all.
F) Are “they” going to close another elementary and push it into BW?
It was a coincidence that Cordata was built to accommodate a growth that was slowed by the recent recession. That slowed development opened a possibility for BW students to stay together and be house at Cordata while BW was renovated. There are no current plans to close any of the other elementary schools in Bellingham. Possibly, as soon as Fall, there will be a Facility Advisory Committee developed. It will be comprised of community and staff and will assess the all the schools that are in need of remodel and determine a timeline and hierarchy of such needs. I strongly suggest that we have a BW member on that group to keep us all up to date on future plans that may affect BW.
G) Are we getting a half size gym?
Currently the BW “wood floored gym” space is 4662 sq. ft. Thus far the current specs for the gym upon remodel are 3450. That is a 1212 sq. ft. difference. In past remodel/rebuild gyms (of other elementary schools) have been connected to cafeterias by a partition. That cafeteria is then connected to a stage. If the current model follows the past trend there will 5450 sq. ft. available for a large community gathering space (gym plus cafeteria). This space would also have the flexibility to accommodate two separate functions by closing the gym and cafeteria off from each other. However, I do know decreasing the gym size from what BW currently has is a concern of many neighbors. It may be the time to start to talk with local business owners about donations. Cordata was slated for a 3450 sq. ft. gym but was able to construct a full size gym due to private donation. We might be able to help accommodate the schools budget and get a full size gym if that is what the masses of BW want.
H) Once we see the design is it too late to give feedback and effect a change?
There is a three part process to design beyond what we have already been through to this point. The phases are Schematic Design, a Design Development (DD) and Construction Development (CD). Ron and Dykeman will give updates to the Ad-Hoc committee as well as the BW neighborhood during the schematic phase. This phase will give the people a direction the designers are headed toward i.e. placement of school, one or two stories etc. There will be time in this phase to make comments and effect change. Once the project heads into DD and CD effecting change will become increasingly difficult.
The Bellingham Parks Department installed a permanent portable toilet in Birchwood Park the beginning of April. Last summer, the Birchwood Neighborhood Association financed the portable toilet for 5 months. We are very happy that this facility will now be available to our Park users throughout the year.