November Community Questions

Linda Quinn Photo

Ferndale School District

Response to Community Questions/Concerns
November 2018

 

1. The Ferndale School Bond Proposal received 58.64% support. Why did it not pass?

 

In Washington State, municipal bonds are required to reach a “Super-Majority” approval rate. That means that the proposal must achieve 60% approval + 1 vote to pass.  While our proposal was close at 58.64%, it was not approved by a Super-Majority.  

 

2. I saw news reports that Ferndale High School students walked out of class to protest the Bond failure. What did the School District do to prepare students and families? Were there consequences for students who chose to walk out?

 

Students have a right to protest. The walkout in November was planned during a time when students were expected to be in class. Absences were unexcused unless parents called to request the absence be excused.

 

As a School District, we did our best to let staff and families know what we knew about the students’ plans. We encouraged families to talk with their students. We also encouraged families to attend a community Town Hall about the Bond for information and discussion of next steps. We were glad to see many students at that Town Hall meeting.

 

3. Will the Ferndale School Board place the Bond Proposal on the ballot in 2019?

 

Yes. The Ferndale School Board voted to place the Bond Proposal on the ballot in February 2019. The vote took place during the regularly scheduled School Board meeting on November 27.

 

4. If the Bond Proposal is placed on the ballot in 2019, will it be the same measure we saw in 2018?

 

Yes. The Board has chosen to put the proposal on the ballot in February 2019, it will be the same proposal as was considered in November 2018.

 

The total amount raised will be the same, but the bond rate will be less because assessed values in the school district have increased.

 

5. How was the original Bond Proposal developed?

 

Active since October 2017, the Ferndale Community Bond Task Force group logged hundreds of individual volunteer hours analyzing maintenance needs and condition reports on existing buildings. All totaled, more than 80 people participated in the process. The result of their work is a package of recommendations they believe will address current needs and plan for the future.

 

6. Where can I find the 2018-2019 FHS basketball schedule?

 

Information about Ferndale High School athletics can be found here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/ferndalehigh/athletics-activities

 

Game and match schedules may be found at http://www.nwcathletics.com.

 

The first girls' basketball game at home is Tuesday, December 4 at 7:15 pm. The first boys' basketball game at home is Thursday, November 29 at 7:15 pm.

 

7. When is the 2018-2019 Winter Break?

 

The 2018-2019 Winter Break begins December 20 and runs through January 2. School begins again on January 3, 2019. A complete school calendar can be found here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/calendar/monthly/2018/12

 

8. I saw a story about the School District’s new propane buses. Are propane buses safe?

 

The safety features of the new propane buses meet the same high standards as all school buses in Washington State. Each new bus is inspected by the Washington State Patrol (WSP) before it leaves the factory in Pasco in order to receive our operating permit. All of the buses in our fleet, including our newest acquisitions, are inspected by WSP on an annual basis to ensure they continue to meet all safety standards.

 

The following link provides more information about propane bus safety, along with a list of FAQs about various aspects of alternative fuel buses:

https://www.blue-bird.com/alternative-fuels.

 

9. Why did the Ferndale School District close North Bellingham Elementary?

 

During the winter of 2006-2007, major storms occurred in our area. As a result of heavy snow, extensive water damage occurred in the 1938 building at North Bellingham Elementary School. Repair of that damage brought to light significant seismic issues, which led to the District’s decision to close the 1938 building beginning with the 2007-2008 school year to protect the safety and welfare of students and staff.

 

At that time, the Ferndale School Board directed the formation of a Citizens' Advisory Committee to recommend options for resolving the challenges at North Bellingham. In August and September of 2007, five portables were placed on site for temporary use by students and staff while the Citizens’ Committee completed its work.

 

In December 2007, the Citizens' Advisory Committee recommended to the School Board that the 1938 building be rebuilt and the other buildings be renovated to provide for enclosed interior space between the buildings. The School Board accepted their recommendation and placed a bond measure to renovate North Bellingham and replace Custer Elementary school on the March 11, 2008 ballot (which failed). Since the measure was close to passing, we decided to run the same proposition again on the May 20, 2008 ballot (which also failed).

 

Without a good alternate solution, the School Board decided to move North Bellingham students and staff into Cascadia Elementary, which was nearing completion. Their decision was based on students' safety, welfare, improved learning environment and a declining district enrollment. From 2008 to 2013, North Bellingham area students were housed at Cascadia Elementary. In the fall of 2013, when Mt. View was closed, all of the District’s elementary school boundaries were redrawn, North Bellingham area students were reassigned to Central Elementary as their new home school. 

 

10. Why did the Ferndale School District close Mt. View Elementary?

 

In the Spring of 2012, the Ferndale School Board voted to close Mt. View Elementary School at the conclusion of the 2012-2013 school year.

 

This decision came at the end of a long, arduous, emotional process for many people. The School District had for several years been suffering from severe budget challenges resulting from the economic recession. These challenges were exacerbated by a gradually declining student enrollment and the rapidly increasing needs of aging facilities.

 

The Facility Advisory Committee (made up of staff and citizen volunteers from across the district) was formed in November 2009 to help the School District make decisions about the most effective and economic ways to utilize and care for aging facilities. When that group started, no one envisioned where it would ultimately lead. However, as FAC members undertook a thorough analysis of all of our District campuses, they realized three things: (1) Some of our buildings were inefficient to operate and in need of significant maintenance in the near future. (2) Some of our buildings were not being utilized to their maximum capacity, which means we were spending money to operate more schools than we actually need. (3) Our school boundaries did not create the most efficient routes to school.

 

Based on these conclusions, the members of FAC presented three recommendations to the school board at its April 2011 meeting: (1) They recommended moving sixth grade to middle school in order to strengthen the middle-level educational program for students in all three grades. (2) They recommended closing an elementary school in order to divert limited funding from building overhead and maintenance to retaining instructional staff and student programs. (3) They recommended redrawing district boundaries in order to consolidate six elementary school areas into five and, in the process, improve logical neighborhood groupings and transportation routes wherever possible.

 

For 13 months, the School Board processed these three recommendations. We sponsored five public forums. We wrote dozens of communications and encouraged local newspapers to do the same. We surveyed the entire Ferndale community, and carefully read every one of the 1,345 responses we received. We entertained comments at School Board meetings. We attended the meetings of other community groups. We even stood in the middle of Main Street during Ferndale's Street Fair handing out flyers and asking people to give us their input.

 

In short, we did everything we could to make the process as open and democratic as possible; and, as is almost always the case in a democratic process, we did not achieve consensus on a single right answer. Some people were unhappy about the decision to close Mt. View. However, our research over two-plus years suggested that: (1) sixth graders in middle school made good educational sense; (2) closing a high-maintenance-need facility and redrawing attendance boundaries would save money that could be spent on people and programs; (3) Mt. View was the most high-need elementary facility; and (4) there was no outcome that would have met with everyone’s approval.

 

At the bottom line, we stood on these three truths: (1) The members of the Facilities Advisory Committee, the School Board, and everyone else closely involved in this process ALWAYS had the best interests of Ferndale students at the forefront. (2) The decision makers made the best choice they could, given the data and input they had at their disposal. (3) The School Board and the Superintendent chose to prioritize people and programs over facilities.