Bellingham School District plans for growth

The Bellingham Business Journal

At its May 27 meeting, the Bellingham School Board awarded a $10. 2 million construction bid for the Aldrich Road elementary school and authorized the school district to purchase 14 acres for a future school site in the King Mountain area.

The two projects are intended to meet current and future demands on the north side of Bellingham, where elementary schools are currently near or exceeding capacity.

The King Mountain site, owned by King Mountain Church and located north of Kellogg Road and east of Guide Meridian, was given the go-ahead after more than five years of discussion. The district will purchase the property for nearly $400,000 less than its appraised value. Its purchase is contingent upon results of an in-depth feasibility analysis.

“We have been studying this area as part of our long-range planning for a number of years,” said Ron Cowan, assistant superintendent of business and operations. “The north end of Bellingham is where our community is growing. We will be ready to meet our short-term needs with the Aldrich school site and with the planned housing developments in the King Mountain area, we will be positioned to meet long-term needs as well.”

The King Mountain property will be purchased using reserves from the capital projects fund. Capital projects funds can only be used for property purchases, school construction and renovations, and cannot be used to balance the general fund.

The $10.2 million alloted for the Aldrich Road elementary school comes after a year-long review of current enrollment at north-side elementary schools and future potential of residential growth in the area. It is within budget for the project, and takes advantage of an opportunity for the federal government to pay all interest on bonds used for construction.

“Paying no interest will easily save our community more than $2 million,” Cowen said.

Tiger Construction, a Whatcom County company, will begin construction of the Aldrich Road elementary school in June. The bids received for the project were very competitive with the top two separated by only about three percent.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with a local, quality construction company that has built both Northern Heights and Wade King elementary schools,” Cowan said.

The school will be constructed as a “green building” according to the Washington State Sustainable Schools Protocol, which is equivalent to LEED Silver, and will include features such as a full-size gym.

The Aldrich Road school will serve the Birchwood, Alderwood, and Sunnyland neighborhoods. Since voters approved a bond in 2006 to fund the project, enrollment at Alderwood, Birchwood, Northern Heights and Sunnyland elementary schools has increased by a total of about 182 students.

Alderwood is currently using one portable classroom, Birchwood is using six portables, and Sunnyland is over capacity, using four portables.

The future Aldrich Road elementary school will be part of Bellingham’s Guide Meridian-Cordata Neighborhood. Completion of the school is anticipated in fall 2011.

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