ONLINE OPEN HOUSE - December 2017 - March 2018
The Task Force members are discussing a variety of topics at our meetings. For brief information about what was discussed at each meeting, click on the drop-downs below. View the Bond Task Force Work Plan for approximate work plans for upcoming meetings. Visit the Ferndale School District website at www.ferndalesd.org/business-support-services/bond-2018 for detailed meeting materials. See our Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about previous bond measures, managing growth, current facilities needs, and the Task Force.
Bond Task Force
School Board Study Session
Topic: Background, charter and expectations
The Ferndale School District Bond Task Force had our first meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. At the meeting, we learned about the purpose and goals of the bond and discussed community values.
Mark Deebach, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Support Services and Dr. Linda Quinn, Superintendent, shared information about the District's facilities needs and background, as well as the previous bond cycles.
Penny Mabie, Facilitator, led us in a discussion of community values. This discussion will eventually lead us to develop guiding principles, which will help us ensure our recommendations match these values.
Some of the key items we discussed were:
- Ensuring that the Task Force is inclusive and representative
- Understanding the history and background of the facilities in our school communities
- Desire for trust, transparency and open communication with the District and the community
Topic: Educational philosophy, capacity and enrollment, and Task Force guiding principles
We had our second Bond Task Force meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. At the meeting, we learned about the District's educational philosophy, capacity, and enrollment. We also continued our discussions of community values and guiding principles.
At the start of the meeting, we shared what we've been hearing from the community. You've told us:
- There are a lot of facilities needs in the District community and those have high costs associated with them
- You want to be kept informed of the details in an open and transparent process
Dr. Linda Quinn, Superintendent, shared the District's educational philosophy and strategic objectives, and how those relate to facility design. Next, Mark Deebach, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Support Services, talked to us about current and projected enrollment and facilities capacity needs.
We then continued our discussion of community values in small groups. We started working to develop draft guiding principles, which will ultimately help inform the development of the bond project list.
Some of the key items we discussed were:
- Making sure we keep the process open and transparent
- Developing guiding principles that are realistic, concise, and fiscally responsible, while meeting the needs of our community
Topic: Communications templates, messaging and Task Force website
The Ferndale School District Bond Task Force Communications Sub-Committee had our first meeting on Nov. 30, 2017. At the meeting, we discussed the purpose of the sub-committee, important messages to share about the work of the Task Force and the bond, the Task Force website, and how best to gather feedback from the community.
Our discussion on important messages to share with the community resulted in a few key items:
- Communicating why previous bonds have not been successful and why we need a bond now
- Sharing information with the community and reaching out to ensure we hear from many voices in the community
We also discussed key ways to share information with the community and gather your feedback. We developed a list of specific groups and organizations to reach out to, tools for sharing information, and next steps. You will be hearing from us soon as we reach out to organizations and groups near you.
Topic: Cost drivers, school construction funding, district facilities current conditions, Task Force priorities
We had our third Bond Task Force meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Prior to the meeting, we toured the Meridian School District’s Meridian High School to help us gain perspective on facilities in other districts. At the meeting, we learned about the trends and costs of bonds for communities and the conditions of the schools in our district. We also discussed the School Board’s guidance on the bond.
At the start of the meeting, we shared what we’ve been hearing from the community. You’ve told us:
- People in the community expect the District to be practical in upgrading or replacing our schools
- Safety of our school communities is a very important consideration in this process
Guest presenter David Trageser, Managing Director with D.A. Davidson, talked with us about how school bonds work. He shared information about trends and voting patterns for bonds across the region, different ways the District can fund building improvements and construction, and how a bond affects an individual’s tax rate.
Mark Deebach, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Support Services, then talked with us a little bit about limitations and requirements for state funding for school improvements.
Next, Terry Brown, architect with Zervas Group, shared information about how school conditions are evaluated and tracked. He then provided an overview of the conditions of our schools. Many of the schools in our district do not score well on the evaluation criteria because of their age, not because of lack of maintenance. Finally, he shared a list of projects that are needed in order to bring all District facilities up to the standard.
At the end of the meeting, we discussed the School Board’s guidance to cap the bond at $100 million. We agreed that we need more information about the needs and conditions of the District before assigning a dollar amount to the bond. Therefore, we agreed that we would ask the School Board to remove the cap from their guidance.
Topic: Facilities needs deep dive (enrollment, capacity, conditions, cost, and funding)
The Ferndale School District Bond Task Force Recommendations Sub-Committee had our first meeting on Dec. 13, 2017 with more than a dozen attendees.
At the meeting, we discussed important considerations for determining options moving forward, the costs of different projects, and the process we’ll use for developing our recommendations.
Our discussion on considerations for determining options resulted in a few key items:
- Considering the costs of refurbishing versus new construction
- Balancing the community’s desire for affordability with improvements for school communities
More specifically, we discussed three options for Ferndale High School.
- New construction on the existing school site
- Refurbishing the school, maintaining specific buildings such as the gym, cafeteria and performing arts center, and connecting all buildings together via an indoor hallway system
- New construction on a new school site that the District would need to acquire
In our discussion of costs, we touched on a few key items, including the costs of bringing the Old Main school building up to current standards per the community’s desire, average prices for different types of projects across the industry, and tax rates.
Finally, we asked for some additional information to help inform our future discussions about projects and recommendations. We are looking for details of the state match of funds and data about the impact that facilities have on student retention and achievement.
Topic: Ferndale school district needed facilities projects
We had our fourth Bond Task Force meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. Prior to the meeting, we toured Custer Elementary School. It was illuminating to see how the school has been remodeled and added to over the years, resulting in some classrooms that can only be entered by going through another classroom. At the Task Force meeting, we learned about the District’s needed projects and associated costs and we worked in small groups to begin developing potential project packages.
At the start of the meeting, we shared what we’ve been hearing from the community. You’ve told us:
- Athletic facilities are not only seen as an asset for schools, but also as a community amenity.
- Some people would see a new high school as a source of civic pride.
The Recommendations Working Sub-Committee gave an overview of their last meeting, where they discussed preliminary costs and how school design influences cost. Penny Mabie, Facilitator, urged folks to read the summary from the meeting, as it provides a lot of detailed information about project needs, construction costs, and budget assumptions.
Next, Mark Deebach, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Support Services, and Terry Brown, architect with Zervas Group, reviewed project costs. Mark also explained the previous community process to develop the three options we are now considering for Ferndale High School. Task Force members asked why improvement costs were included for schools that have closed (i.e., Mountain View). We learned that we can consider recommending getting those schools up and running again as part of our project package.
We then broke out into five small groups to explore potential project packages. We examined the cost of individual capital projects by school and worked with an interactive spreadsheet to explore ballpark costs for different combinations of projects. After completing the small group activity, we came back together to share the rationale behind the specific projects we had chosen. Safety, equity across schools, and fiscal conservatism were the most frequently mentioned reasons for the groups’ selected projects.
At our next meeting, we will hear from a panel of Ferndale School District staff about their perspective on the needs of our schools. We will also continue to refine our project packages, with the ultimate goal of developing a list of recommended projects.
Topic: Key messages, communication tools and strategies for community outreach
The Ferndale School District Bond Task Force Communications Sub-Committee had our second meeting on January 17, 2018. At the meeting, we reviewed key messages for the task force and refined the list we developed during our last meeting on November 30, 2017. We also discussed the need to make the Task Force more visible in the Ferndale community, including highlighting the Bond Task Force webpage on the school district’s website and the importance of reaching out to community members to address misinformation and answer questions.
As a group we also talked about tools Task Force members can use while talking to the Ferndale community. Tools included:
- Informational one-sheets on each school with data about the school and the improvement projects identified for each (posted on the Task Force website and available for printing)
- A presentation with talking points on the work of the Bond Task Force, so members can share information with community organizations
- A Frequently Asked Questions sheet (posted on the Task Force website and available for printing)
Shared materials are being developed now and we will reach out to organizations and groups near you with more information soon.
Topic: Recommendations development
We had our fifth Bond Task Force meeting on Wednesday, January 31, 2018. Prior to the meeting, we toured Vista Middle School to get a better understanding of the needs at the school.
At the meeting, we continued to work towards developing recommendations for the School Board. First we talked about Ferndale High School, because the School Board has asked us to make the high school a signature project. We are discussing three options for Ferndale High School, including:
- Build a new school at the current site and then remove existing buildings.
- Keep and modernize the performing arts center (PAC), gym complex and cafeteria, then build the remaining area as new, connecting it all into one complex.
- Build a new school on a new site to be purchased somewhere near downtown.
We agreed not to recommend a new high school on a new site (option 3), but we are not yet decided on recommending option 1 or option 2. We discussed the affordability of options, the desire for facilities that support Ferndale Pride, the concerns about whether updating existing facilities (gym, cafeteria, PAC) provide the same level of long-term lifespan that new facilities do (not creating additional maintenance concerns down the road), and many other considerations.
During the meeting we also discussed if we should recommend other projects in addition to Ferndale High School. We have seen that there are facilities needs at almost every school in the district, but we also know that fixing all the needs are expensive and we can only ask so much of our community. This is a very difficult question. We discussed how challenging it is to try to pick one school’s needs over another’s. So, instead of trying to choose schools, we looked at needs that are common across all schools, such as safety and security measures, and mechanical, electrical and plumbing improvements.
We have had very good conversations over the past few months, but we need more time to discuss options. We requested to meet more (and for longer times), and the district agreed to support more meetings. We also discussed tentatively delaying our presentation to the School Board if we need more time to develop our recommendations.
Please check back on this site to see a revised meeting schedule soon.
Topic: Recommendations development
We had our sixth Bond Task Force meeting on Monday, February 12, 2018.
At the meeting, we reviewed our conversation from January 31st and broke up into small groups to continue our recommendations discussion. Each small group looked at new information regarding costs and tax rates and filled out a worksheet with their project recommendations. At the end of our small group exercise each of the groups reported out on their conversations and recommendations.
As a group we had strong agreement on some recommendations while others require more discussion. We agree it makes sense to:
- Keep the current performing arts center (PAC) at Ferndale High School.
- Fund safety & security needs across Ferndale schools.
- Keep talking about whether to keep the current gym at Ferndale High School in addition to the PAC. Rebuild the rest of Ferndale High School.
- Keep talking about upgrades to mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and other critical needs across schools.
We are looking into recommending projects that address needs at all Ferndale Schools where possible, since it is important to us to make sure that everyone benefits from this bond measure. To help us make a more informed decision about funding critical needs at schools, we have asked for a list of all the critical needs projects in the district prioritized by what will be most critical in the next ten years. We plan to consider this information at our next Task Force meeting on February 26.
We met again the following night at the Recommendations Sub-Committee meeting on Tuesday February 13, 2018 to continue our discussion. See below for more information.
Topic: Finalize recommendation language
The Ferndale School District Bond Task Force Recommendations Sub-Committee had our second meeting on Tuesday February 13, 2018. At the meeting, we reviewed the conversation we had with the full Task Force on Monday night and continued discussing project recommendations.
During the meeting we heard from Steve Menefee who is the Band Director at Ferndale High School. He shared his observations about the performing arts center (PAC) at the high school in comparison to other arts centers across the county. He shared that he considers the PAC to be in the top 20 performing arts centers he has seen across the country, and many of his colleagues feel the same.
As a group we came to the following decisions:
- Ferndale High School: Keep the PAC and build everything else new on the same site, including the gym. Continue to discuss how much budget to dedicate to upgrades to the PAC.
- Safety, security and exterior lighting: Fund all needs across the district.
- Mechanical, electrical and plumbing (M/E/P) systems: Don’t include these projects as separate line items but have the needs folded into the list of critical needs projects.
- Critical needs: Keep discussing which critical needs to recommend, based on the prioritized list the district is developing for the next Task Force meeting.
- North Bellingham School: Partial remodel would include building a new connecting roof over open spaces to connect the school’s five separate buildings. This would create one connected school with interior hallways and common spaces. The remodel would also demolish the unsafe 1938 building.
- Oversight committee: Create an oversight committee to oversee the work of the School Board. We believe accountability for how any bond funds are spent is a critical issue and think that a community oversight committee would help develop and maintain that accountability to the community.
We have had good dialogue this week that considered a lot of different options for approaching the district’s long-term facilities needs. We’ve also made some key decisions that have brought us closer to completing our recommendations, which we will first present to the School Board on February 27. We look forward to a good discussion with the School Board on what we are thinking.
We will be posting more information about our recommendations on this website in the coming days. Check back soon for more information.
Topic: School board presentation development
The Ferndale School District Bond Task Force Communications Sub-Committee had our third meeting on Wednesday, February 21. At the meeting, we reviewed the new recommendations beta webpage and survey questions. We also worked on our presentation to the School Board.
As a group we talked about messages we wanted to convey to the School Board and to the Ferndale community about our work. Messages included:
- Keeping and modernizing the performing arts center (PAC) at Ferndale High School and building the remainder of the school as new, responds to the need for improved safety and security at the school and will provide a facility that can support and enhance all current student programs (such as Career Technical Education (CTE), athletics, music, etc.).
- Building Ferndale High School new will result in significant savings from reduced maintenance and more efficient utilities, that can be used to address other facilities or educational programming needs in the district.
- The buildings at Ferndale High School are very inefficient. Not only are they unsafe, but the age of their equipment (boilers, ventilation, etc.) makes it hard to heat or cool buildings properly. In the summer, temperatures inside classrooms can reach 90 degrees while in the winter they can get as low as 40 degrees. School staff say there are breakdowns and/or malfunctions of building systems almost every day and parts can be hard to replace due to age.
- The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount. Currently many district facilities lack the means for reliable controlled access or a rapid "lockdown".
- The current list of facilities needs throughout the district (as determined by a team including district maintenance staff, architects and engineers) is substantially more than can be addressed with one bond measure.
- We are considering recommending North Bellingham Elementary School be remodeled and reopened. Reopening North Bellingham meets the district’s preference for having neighborhood schools. It could also provide additional capacity for future growth and could help the district reduce class size in the early grades. However, we will be grounding our decision about whether to include this project in the bond measure, by comparing those benefits with other critical needs in the district.
Our new recommendations page is going live this week! Look for the "Our Work" tab at the top of the website to read more information about the recommendations we are planning to present to the School Board on Tuesday, February 27.
Topic: Recommendations development
We had our seventh Bond Task Force meeting on Monday, February 26, 2018.
At the meeting we recapped and re-evaluated the decisions made during the February recommendations and communications sub-committee meetings (see summaries above). We then spent most of the meeting discussing the recommendations still under consideration. These included:
- Critical needs. The list of critical needs in the district is substantially more than we can address in one bond issue. It’s important to identify the most critical needs and dedicate funds to those projects.
- North Bellingham Elementary. Reopening North Bellingham would provide a neighborhood school which is in alignment with district values. Reopening North Bellingham could also help reduce class size at early grade levels and allow the district to expand early learning in its neighborhood schools.
- Upgrade Ferndale Performing Arts Center (PAC). Consider how much to spend on remodeling the PAC based on other recommendations.
After a lot of good discussion, the draft recommendations we are presenting to the School Board on February 27, 2018 are:
- Keep and modernize the PAC and build the remaining high school as new
- Fund safety, security and exterior LED lighting improvements on all needed buildings
- Establish a community oversight committee to monitor and work with the district on all bond spending
- Address highest priority critical needs at other district facilities
Updated information on these recommendations, including cost expectations and details on our rationale, can be found on the Our Work tab.
We also want to thank everyone who visited the feedback page and shared your thoughts with us. We reviewed and discussed your comments before coming to these recommendations.
On February 27, 2018 Wendy Lawrence and Joe Lupo presented our draft recommendations to the Ferndale School Board (See the full presentation for more details).
Questions the school board asked of the Task Force included:
- Did the Task Force consider how state match funding factors into these recommendations?
- Did the Task Force take into consideration feelings about the cost of the last bond issued? The total cost of that bond was $125 million, and many in the Ferndale community felt the cost was too high.
- How does this package support athletics at Ferndale High School?
- When considering the remodel of North Bellingham Elementary, did the Task Force discuss unknown costs that might come up? Were these unknown costs factored into the $6.9 million estimate for the remodel?
A student representative on the School Board also noted that any remodel of North Bellingham should have a high focus on safety.
We will be discussing feedback from the School Board at our meeting on March 7 and bringing our final recommendations to the School Board for action on March 27. Check the Our Work tab for more information on our draft recommendations.
Topic: Finalize recommendations
We had our eighth Bond Task Force meeting on Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Before the meeting we took a tour of North Bellingham Elementary School. At the meeting we reviewed the draft recommendations that were presented to the School Board on February 27 and came to a decision about our final recommendations.
At the beginning of this meeting we reviewed new information provided by the District and the architect, Terry Brown, which included revised budget numbers for several of the projects we’re considering. We took a poll to see where we stood on the draft recommendations presented to the School Board, if they were updated with the new numbers. The results of the poll were 77% of the Task Force members said yes to making those recommendations final and 23% said no. Since there was not full agreement, we split into small groups to discuss adjustments to our draft recommendations proposal.
Each small group used a worksheet to consider project details and costs to come up with a final recommendations proposal. From our small group discussions three main options surfaced.
- Option 1: Keep the draft recommendations the same but add reopening and remodeling North Bellingham Elementary.
Rationale – Adding North Bellingham Elementary has been a topic of discussion at past Task Force meetings. Key points in favor of reopening the elementary school included adding classroom capacity to support lower-grade class sizes, adding elementary capacity as a hedge against future growth, and allowing the district to move early learning programs to neighborhood schools, reducing student busing and parent traffic through downtown Ferndale.
- Option 2: Keep the draft recommendations the same and add needed security upgrades at North Bellingham Elementary.
Rationale – Even if the District does not remodel and re-open North Bellingham with this bond measure, the building is still being used for other educational purposes. Recommending security upgrades at the school along with the rest of the district schools would help make all schools safer.
- Option 3: Recommend rebuild and replace Ferndale High School, while retaining and upgrading the Performing Arts Center, and include needed safety and security upgrades at the rest of the district’s buildings.
Rationale – Keep this bond measure focused on one signature project, making it very clear for voters what is being asked of them. This helps the district deliver on one project and build trust in the community for future work.
After much more discussion and group polling, we decided to recommend option 2. The formal recommendation going to the School Board on March 27th will include:
- Rebuild Ferndale High School (except keep the PAC) and remove the old school. Cost: $105 million.
- Keep and upgrade the Performing Arts Center. Cost $2 million.
- Perform needed safety, security and exterior lighting improvements at all buildings where it is needed across the district, including North Bellingham Elementary School. See link. Cost: $809 thousand.
- Address most critical building needs across the district, identified as Level 1 Critical Needs by the District and Terry Brown, Zervas. See link. Cost: $4 million.
- Establish a Community Oversight Committee to ensure bond funding is that bond funds are spent according to what is detailed in the bond package, and that all projects are implemented as planned.
The meeting ended with our neutral facilitator asking us if we would support the final recommendations to the School Board and the community. A few members could not support omitting reopening and remodeling North Bellingham Elementary School from the recommendations. However, every member of the Task Force present expressed willingness to support the Task Force process. Positive comments about the process included deep appreciation for the richness of our discussions, the amount of information provided by the school district and its consultants, and the thoroughness with which we examined each issue. Several of our members will be helping the facilitation team write a report of our whole process to deliver to the School Board on March 27th.
Topic: Present final recommendations
On March 27, 2018 Maralise Fegan and Connie Faria presented our final recommendations to the Ferndale School Board (see the full presentation for more details).
After the presentation the School Board chair opened the floor up to other Bond Task Force members in the audience. Task Force members shared the following additional comments about the process to develop our final recommendations:
- The help provided by outside consultants kept Task Force conversations moving. Terry Brown was mentioned for his help figuring out project costs, and the District’s neutral third-party facilitator, Penny Mabie, was mentioned for her help during Task Force meetings. In addition, Task Force members’ expertise was also extremely valuable - Joe Lupo was mentioned for his help navigating construction cost.
- The School District responded to all information requests from Task Force members and provided helpful insight into how long-term facilities planning is done. Mark Deebach was thanked for his work to pull together information for Task Force conversations and Jamie Plenkovich was mentioned for giving Task Force members critical information about facilities conditions. The school tours, primarily conducted by principals and students also contributed to our body of knowledge.
- Students provided valuable perspective to Task Force conversations and asked impressive questions. There was student participation at every Task Force meeting.
- The work of the Task Force is not over. Task Force members have formed the “Citizens’ Capital Bond Committee” to continue work related to the November bond measure. This committee met for the first time the week of March 19.
School Board members who attended Task Force meetings mentioned how impressed they were with the dedication of Task Force members to understand long term facilities planning in the District, and the work the Task Force did to come up with the final recommendations. School Board members also mentioned their appreciation for the effort the Task Force put into hearing from a wide range of community members.
After all comments were heard the School Board moved to formally accept our final recommendations and accepted them unanimously!
We have published our Final Recommendations Report. Please take a look!