Response To Community Questions
We recognize there are many sources of information about providing safe in-person instruction during the pandemic. In Ferndale, we made the decision early on to rely heavily on guidance from the Whatcom County Health Department. The Health Department staff have access to the latest medical information, and they have been very responsive in answering our questions and assisting us with our plans. To this point, we have followed the six-foot standard for social distancing, as per the recommendations of the Health Department. To date, adult vaccinations have not resulted in a modification of this social distancing guidance.
Given the recent report from the CDC that three-feet distancing is permissible under some circumstances, we are working with our Health Department partners and our District staff to determine how we can translate the new guidance into practice.
We agree. Almost all students are better served in an in-person educational setting. Our kids who have returned to their classrooms part-time have done an amazing job of following our health and safety protocols. Our staff has stepped up to make sure safety is a top priority. Our community has been supportive. We have not waiting for any group of people to “do better” in order to expand in-person learning. We have been waiting for scientists and medical experts to let us know when we can do so safely.
On March 25, 2021, Governor Inslee announced that our state's physical distancing requirements in K–12 schools will be changed to follow the CDC guidance released on March 19, 2021. As a result, the Department of Health and OSPI updated K-12 Guidelines to align with the CDC. However, the guidelines are not as simple as putting twice as many students in our schools. The new three-foot rule only applies to the space between students in classrooms. We still need to provide six feet of space in all common areas and any place where people have their masks off, like hallways and lunchrooms. We still need to follow all of the other mitigation strategies, like checking daily attestations and contact tracing. Fulfilling these requirements with twice as many students is going to take significant planning, physical rearrangement of spaces, and hiring additional staff. While we are working to expand our in-person learning, it is too early to say exactly when we can make that happen.
Yes. We believe we will be able to bring all students back full time in the fall, and we are making plans accordingly. Increasing numbers of vaccinations, decreasing case rates, and the recent change in the six-foot distancing rule are all reasons that we can see a light at the end of this tunnel.
We meet and confer with all of our labor groups on a regular basis. As far as any group’s position on a particular topic, we recommend asking members of the group directly.
Asymptomatic surveillance testing is another safety measure we are preparing to implement in our secondary schools. Our district has been selected by Seattle Children’s to be part of such a testing program free to us except for the dedication of several hours of staff time per week. The program involves weekly tests self-administered at school in a supervised setting.
We are making plans with our nurses and administrators to begin implementing the testing program after Spring Break with students in our three secondary schools. In order to participate, students will require written permission from a parent or guardian. Because the research shows this kind surveillance testing can reduce asymptomatic transmission of the virus by up to 50%, we encourage parents and guardians to allow their students to take part in the program.
From the outset of the pandemic, we have been committed to pursuing every opportunity to enhance safety in our schools in order to provide students with the best education possible. Surveillance testing can give us one more layer of protection. We will soon be sending information to families about how they can sign their children up for the program.
On March 19, 2021, Governor Inslee rescinded his earlier travel guidance and replaced it by encouraging people to follow the latest recommendations of the CDC, which include (1) limiting travel prior to being vaccinated; (2) wearing a mask whenever you are in public; and (3) getting tested before and after traveling. More specific information can be found in the CDC guidance, which can be accessed at this link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html
The School District does not have a formal policy regarding travel. While we cannot prevent people from traveling, we ask for families’ cooperation in not putting our in-person school system in jeopardy. If you decide to travel, and you expose yourself and/or your children to situations that are potentially unsafe, please do not send your students back to school until you are sure they are not carrying the virus.
We don’t know yet. The State recently came out with new guidance about graduation, which allows for in-person ceremonies, but not in the same way as we used to conduct them. For instance, we will not be allowed to host thousands of people at Civic Stadium. To meet the current rules, a ceremony at Civic would probably be limited to two guests per graduate. Ferndale High School Principal Jeremy Vincent is developing several options that comply with the current graduation guidance. Before making a decision, he will be surveying seniors and their parents to find out which of the options they prefer.
Yes. In February 2021, we launched intramural programs for all interested students in Grades 6-8 at both of our middle schools. Activities include sports like pickleball, flag football, and ultimate frisbee. Horizon and Vista students in Grades 7 and 8 are also participating in interscholastic athletics in the Whatcom County League. The interscholastic athletic program offerings are Girls Soccer and Boys and Girls Track in April and Football and Softball in May.
WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Athletics Association), which is the organization that governs athletic programs throughout the state, does not authorize interscholastic athletics at the Grade 6 level. This is a statewide decision, not a Ferndale decision. However, this year in our District, sixth graders can participate in intramurals, which we are offering for the first time in quite a while.
The State has set 24 credits as the minimum requirement for a Washington diploma (sometimes called Core24). This number is based on a six-period schedule. Students in a six-period schedule can earn six credits per year for four years, which is 24 credits. Since Ferndale High School offers students an eight-period schedule, students have the opportunity to earn 32 credits during their four years in high school. We require 30 credits for graduation. In Ferndale’s Golden Eagle Academy and Virtual Academy, where student schedules more closely resemble the six-period model, the credit requirement is 24.
It should be noted that the State has offered and our School Board is likely to approve a graduation credit requirement waiver for students in the Class of 2021 to mitigate negative impacts of the pandemic. The waiver will allow the high school principal to waive two elective or core credits for an individual student as long as both credits are not in the same discipline.
Our teachers are assessing their students this spring to determine whether they have fallen behind and to what extent. Counselors are checking in with high schoolers to find out their credit status and learning needs. We plan to provide summer school programs to those students in greatest need of remediation and/or credit retrieval. We are also working on expanding and strengthening our multi-tiered system of supports for all students, so that we have the right help in place when students return to school next fall.
Yes. We are currently in the process of planning our 2021 summer school. We are identifying eligible students based on assessment results and credit status. Our intention is to offer a robust summer program. However, our ability to do so in person will be dictated by the course of the virus in our community and the availability of teachers.
No. Teachers will be making referrals to our summer school programs. If a student qualifies, the school district will notify their parents or guardians and invite them to register. Transportation will be provided.
Because the capacity of our facilities has been severely limited by the Covid physical distancing requirements, we have temporarily paused our school volunteer programs. However, we miss our volunteers and we are currently revisiting this topic.
Since almost every superintendent contract runs from July 1 through June 30, hiring a new superintendent to begin on June 30, 2021 would require quite a rushed selection process. The Board, on the other hand, is committed to running a thoughtful, collaborative, community-wide process with meaningful opportunities for staff and community members to provide input. To do this, they chose to allow ample time for the selection to unfold by appointing and interim superintendent for nine months (October 2021 through June 2022). In addition, they believe the overall hiring experience will be more effective if they are able conduct in-person meetings rather than doing everything virtually.
The ultimate decision about who will be the new superintendent will be made by the members of the School Board. However, the Board will hire a search firm to assist them with this process. Representatives from the search firm will meet with Board, staff, and community members to create a profile of the desired characteristics of the new superintendent. That profile will be turned into a job announcement and invitation to apply. The search firm will assist with recruiting and vetting potential candidates to present to the Board. From the list of potential candidates, the Board will decide which ones they want to interview. When they have narrowed the list to several finalists for the position, the Board will most likely introduce those finalists to the staff and community at public events designed for this purpose. The Board will decide how to collect input and how to use that input to make their final decision.
Each superintendent search is slightly different, depending on the decisions of the School Board working in conjunction with the search firm. However, most of them resemble the process described in the preceding paragraph.
Students in the FHS theatre program have worked hard over the past few months to create a filmed production of the musical Little Women, following Covid protocols. You can watch the musical from the comfort of your own living room the weekend of February 26-28, when it will be streaming on-demand. Tickets can also be purchased online at this link: https://www.showtix4u.com/#streaming (search “Ferndale”).
Little Women is a heartwarming story based on the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott, which has been adapted multiple times for stage and screen. It has beautiful costumes, wonderful music, and strong female characters -- and it is appropriate for the whole family.
The State of Washington is not giving Covid vaccines to children under 16. The first vaccines released have only been authorized for use in adults and teens who are at least 16 years old. Before Covid vaccines become available for younger teens and children, clinical trials need to be completed to ensure they are safe and effective for these age groups. We can't assume a vaccine will have the same effect on a child as it does for someone older.
No. The District doesn’t make the rules about which vaccines are required for children to attend public schools. Those are State decisions. Since the Covid vaccine has not yet been fully tested on children, we do not anticipate the State will add it to their list of required vaccinations in the near future.
An “outbreak” is defined as a sudden increase in the number of cases of the virus that have been transmitted within a small area. When we refer to outbreaks in schools, we are talking about two or more students not from the same family who have apparently contracted and/or passed the virus in a classroom, school building, bus, or other school facility. So far, we have not had any outbreaks in Ferndale schools or facilities. We have had Ferndale students test positive for the virus, but in each case contract tracing revealed they contracted it in their home or at a social event. The safety mitigation strategies we have in place in our schools -- masking, distancing, hand washing, cleaning, and contact tracing -- are working to keep students and staff safe.
Yes. Ferndale High School has already had their school picture days on February 16 for students in the AA cohort and February 18 for students in the BB cohort. Horizon Middle School picture days are scheduled for March 1 and March 4. Vista Middle School picture days are scheduled for April 12 and April 16. You can contact your school office if you have questions.
District athletic information can be found at the following link on the Ferndale High School website: https://ferndalegoldeneagles.com/. We have also been spreading the word on all of our social media platforms.
High school students are granted a number of privileges that are not afforded their middle school counterparts, just like middle schoolers have more freedom than elementary students. It is all part of a gradual process of increasing both independence and accountability as students progress through the grades.
Because of the need for rigorous enforcement of all of the Covid safety precautions, we decided to start out at middle school with very strict lunch protocols, which can be gradually relaxed when we are confident students can handle greater flexibility without compromising anyone’s safety. At the high school level, we started with the assumption that students were old enough to exercise some personal discretion and still follow the safety protocols. Those who demonstrate they cannot will be subject to loss of privileges.
Yes. We intend to provide outdoor spaces for middle schoolers this spring to the extent we have staff available to supervise them.
Yes. We are now offering our secondary full-time remote students an online instrumental music class with a certificated music teacher on Wednesdays.
At this point, we really don’t know. We would love to increase in-person learning time, especially for our youngest students. However, our ability to do so will be dictated by the course of the virus in our community.
Yes. We are currently beginning the process of planning our 2021 summer school. Our intention is to offer a robust summer program. However, our ability to do so in person will be dictated by the course of the virus in our community.
When we announced a two-hour late start on Tuesday, February 16, to give us time to clear snow and ice from walkways and parking lots, we did not do a good job of providing information about what the late start meant for our students who are learning remotely. We are committed to doing better next time!
In the event of a delayed start, our remote-only students (those who do not attend in-person/hybrid learning) will adhere to the following schedules:
- Elementary remote-only students will follow the two-hour delay and all morning Zooms will be canceled.
- Middle remote-only students will follow their normal remote schedule with no delay.
- High school remote-only students will follow the two-hour delay and the length of each period will be adjusted.
Additionally, whenever we have a delayed start, both morning and afternoon sessions of Developmental Preschool will be canceled.
In the event of weather conditions or other emergencies that impact school schedules, you can access district information about schedule changes through any of the following technologies:
♦ Ferndale School District Website: www.ferndalesd.org
♦ Ferndale School District Facebook: www.facebook.com/FerndaleSchools
♦ Ferndale School District Twitter: @FerndaleSD_WA
♦ Ferndale School District Telephone Line: 360-383-9888
No. Because the capacity of our facilities has been severely limited by new Covid physical distancing requirements, we have temporarily paused our school volunteer programs. However, we miss our volunteers and we are currently revisiting this topic
We know good ventilation is recommended as a safety mitigation strategy. To improve ventilation in our classrooms and buildings, we are:
- Expanding the scheduled times when our HVAC systems and exhaust fans are running. (We are turning them on earlier and leaving them on at least two hours after staff exit in the afternoons to flush the buildings in both mornings and evenings.)
- Increasing the frequency of replacing filters.
- Opening doors and windows whenever possible, while still maintaining thermal comfort, to increase air flow.
- Reducing the overall occupancy of buildings, which also improves ventilation.
No. We do not have a formal policy. We have discussed this topic internally and also with leaders of the other districts in the county. We cannot prevent people from traveling, and we have chosen not to mandate a quarantine period following travel. However, we ask families not to put our in-person school system in jeopardy. If you decide to travel, and you expose yourself and/or your children to situations that are potentially unsafe, please do not send your students back to school until you are sure they are not carrying the virus.
The high school has one designated gender-neutral bathroom, and the old training room has been made available as a gender-neutral locker room when needed. The middle schools have identified staff bathrooms for gender-neutral use. In short, we only have one permanently designated bathroom, and the staff makes accommodations on an as-needed basis in our other facilities.
To serve students whose families choose not to have them return to in-person learning for any reason, we are providing a remote learning option through the entire 2020-2021 school year.
To the extent possible, we are providing teachers -- especially those meeting the criteria for high-risk -- with remote assignments. Teacher requests are determined case by case, depending on the needs of students, the capacity of the system, and the logistics of certain jobs. Teachers who choose not to return to in-person learning for whom there is not a remote assignment available have the option to request a temporary leave of absence.
The district, in collaboration with the local health department, has developed a communication plan for informing staff and families of a confirmed case as well as protocol for quarantine requirements. The health department is taking the lead in this area, and so far the plan has worked well. Additional information can be found at this link: COVID-19 Exposure
We know many non-contagious conditions can cause symptoms similar to those of COVID-19. These include exercise-induced asthma, migraines associated with normal patterns and/or triggers, muscle injury, and so on. Students with symptoms related to non-contagious medical conditions do not need to stay home from school, provided that attendance does not make their condition worse. Families -- or older students themselves -- should make sure the school nurse and teachers are aware of the cause and concern. Whenever any of the student’s symptoms are worse or different than usual, the student should stay home.
At this time, a doctor’s note alone will not negate the need for a COVID test when a student becomes ill. Health care professionals must validate all symptoms related to a diagnosed condition, such as strep throat or ear infection, or the student must quarantine from onsite attendance at school.
Probably not. According to Whatcom County Health Department, close contact constitutes being within six feet of someone for a cumulative 15 minutes or greater duration of time. We expect there will be times when students are within six feet of one another, but those will be short in duration. Whatcom County Health Department deems this “casual contact” to be generally safe.
Staff will first take steps to educate the student on safety compliance; implement positive behavior interventions; and, when appropriate, consult with the student’s parent or guardian. If these interventions do not change the student’s behavior, the District may exclude the student from in-person learning for refusing to wear a face covering (except in cases where medical, behavioral or other disability prohibits mask adherence). Since the District is already offering a distance learning option, a student who will not comply with health and safety guidelines will be required to get their education remotely.
At this time, water fountains are turned off and/or “locked” for hygienic reasons. Personal water bottles can be brought from home. Bottle filling stations are available at each school. In addition, paper cups will be available for one-time use by staff and students.
At the elementary level, we were able to accommodate families’ requests for AA or BB days. However, at the secondary schools, where scheduling is more complex, that turned out to be very difficult to do while still balancing class loads throughout the day. For the most part, secondary students’ AA or BB cohort was determined by alphabet. We have done our best to accommodate requests for changes to the other cohort.
We will consider all requests. However, depending on capacity in our classrooms, we may not be able to change a student from a remote to a hybrid learning model. If you are interested in a change, please contact your school’s main office. They will listen to your request and accommodate it if doing so is possible without jeopardizing our safety protocols.
The transition between fully remote and hybrid in-person learning, along with some families’ choice to have their students remain remote, have required our secondary school staffs to redo their master schedules. This process is time-consuming. Our goal is to release schedules in Skyward on Thursday January 28. However, some students’ schedules may still be tweaked over the weekend prior to the February 1 semester start date. We appreciate everyone’s patience through this process.
Yes. Through the end of this school year (2020-2021), all students are eligible for free breakfast and lunch whether attending in person or via a distance learning model. Meals are available for pickup at designated sites on Wednesdays. Students do not need to be present when meals are picked up. Each meal box consists of five complete breakfasts and five complete lunches.
Even though meals are free this year, applying for the Free and Reduced lunch program continues to be very important as this information is used to provide fee waivers and allows the district to apply for vital federal and state funds to serve students. Free and Reduced Lunch Applications can be picked up at school offices.
Yes. Edgenuity is our textbook for this year in most secondary classes. By maintaining the use of Edgenuity, we will be able to provide consistency for students from their in-person to remote days. Teachers will facilitate the use of Edgenuity.
Ferndale High School conducted tours for incoming freshmen. The middle schools will provide information sessions prior to returning to in-person learning and orientations after their students are back in the buildings.
During this time when community COVID rates are high, the rationale for recommending remote learning for middle and high school students, while continuing in-person classroom instruction for elementary students, is based on three reasons, according to Whatcom Health Department Chief Medical Officer Dr. Greg Stern: (1) the rates of transmission from younger children is much lower than from older youth; (2) it’s much more feasible to keep elementary students in small “pods,” or cohorts, with one or two staff members, whereas secondary students travel from class to class and intermix with a number of different groups throughout the school day; and (3) remote learning is less effective at younger ages, which puts our elementary students in a higher needs category.
The data continues to show that, with reasonable safety precautions, schools are not driving virus transmission. When the pandemic began, we were afraid they would. However, the science has not played out that way. Small outbreaks (defined as just two or three people transmitting the virus to one another) have occurred in some schools, although not in any Ferndale schools or other Whatcom County schools to date. And large outbreaks have been uncommon in all schools where safety measures are in place. Our protocols work; our families and staff are doing an excellent job implementing them; and, as a result, we are successfully minimizing risks.
Based on the most current research, the Whatcom Health Department is no longer using a numerical threshold related to community spread of the virus to determine when to close elementary schools. You probably remember when we started this journey, we were given a range of 25-75 cases per 100,000 of population as the “moderate risk zone” for schools. Then there was discussion about increasing those numbers. At this point, the medical experts have determined that community transmission rates are not reflected in school transmission rates. So, rather than using a community metric, the Whatcom Health Department has committed to monitoring actual cases and transmissions occurring within schools and using this data-- in combination with other factors related to our staffs’ capacity (both in the District and the Health Department) to run classes, follow up on symptoms, do contact tracing, and so on -- to make any necessary decisions about school closures.
Yes. When either a student or a staff member in a school tests positive, we make sure every close contact of that person is personally notified. In addition, we send an email notification to all staff and families to let them know we have had a positive case at their school and the specific day on which it occurred.
We will bring all students (whose parents choose) back to in-person learning as soon as it is safely possible. To determine when that will be, we are involved in a continuous conversation with health care authorities. We are reading the most current research and receiving recommendations on a regular basis. Our ability to do bring everyone back will also be impacted by (1) the degree to which the members of our community follow the safety protocols and (2) the time it takes to distribute the vaccine widely.
Yes. One of the screens in the attestation allows you to choose to forward the attestation to a different phone number. If you need help making this happen, please contact your school office.
We know younger children can have the virus and be asymptomatic. We also know that people can be contagious 48 hours prior to developing any symptoms. These are the reasons we are so strict about following safety protocols related to masks and physical distancing even when everyone appears to be healthy.
No. The Whatcom Health Department recommends we stick with the 14-day quarantine period out of an abundance of caution. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stern shared that after 14 days the risk of residual transmission is just .1% (read that as point one, or one tenth of one, percent), whereas after 10 days the risk of residual transmission increases to 1% (read that as one percent). In other words, the risk is ten times greater after 10 days than it is after 14 days. Therefore, any exception to this 14-day quarantine rule will only be made if a particular case has been reviewed and approved by the Health Department.
Teachers report that a small portion of their time is spent dealing with virus-related tasks. We have implemented breaks for extra hand washing and sanitizing, but the majority of the day is devoted to learning. Our teachers have taught their students the new expectations -- just as they do every year -- and they are following them. Overall, students and staff are doing a great job implementing the new safety protocols, which is one of the reasons we are not seeing transmission in schools at the rate we do in the general public.
Returning to more in-person learning or to full-time in-person learning is dependent on achieving a low virus transmission rate. Once widely enough administered to lower community spread, a vaccine is definitely one of the factors that could help us get more kids back into classrooms for more time. As citizens, we also can also help to lower the rate of virus transmission by wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and following guidance regarding gatherings.
You can access a free testing site at testdirectly.com. Right now, this is the easiest place we know about for you to get a COVID test if you need to -- or if you just want to.
Our fund balance (sometimes referred to as our savings account) is higher than usual this fall for a number of reasons. The main one has to do with the way the State funds schools. During the first half of the school year, the State provides us our monthly apportionment based on our projected enrollment. The second half of the school year, the State makes corrections. If our projected enrollment was too low, we get more each month beginning in January. However, if our projection was too high, the State starts in January to recover the dollars we have been overpaid during the first half of the year. Usually, in Ferndale this system works fine, since our projections have been very accurate. This year is an exception. We made our enrollment projections and developed our budget before we knew our educational program, and our whole way of living, was going to be severely impacted by the pandemic. As a result, we have lost more than 300 students whose parents decided to pursue other options for them during this year of remote and hybrid learning. That means we are have been significantly overpaid by the State during the first months of the 2020-2021 school year, and the State will recoup those overpayments during the second half of the school year. To be prepared, we have had to build up our savings account.
Other reasons for our higher fund balance this fall include:
Transportation funding from the State is similar to basic ed enrollment-based apportionment. We receive transportation funds based on ridership, which is a function of the number of students who ride and the number of miles they travel. The ridership figure the State uses to determine how much they are going to give us comes from the previous year. According to the formula, we have been overpaid this fall. Even though we have been running most of our buses since October to support the hybrid learning model and our Safe Remote Access Sites, we have had fewer students on each bus. Even though we furloughed many of our drivers for a period of time, State law required us to pay their benefits while they were furloughed. So our transportation expenditures are down a bit (contributing to a higher fund balance right now), but our revenue is going to be decreased even more beginning in January. In short, transportation is running at a significant deficit this year. We need to make sure our “savings account” can cover the deficit when we return to in-person learning for all or most of our students.
Another reason our fund balance is higher is that we put a freeze on as many expenditures as we could when the levy failed in February 2020 in order to prepare for living through a second levy failure in November 2020, if such eventuality had come to pass (which thankfully it did not).
Another reason our fund balance is higher is that we have received CARES Act funding to offset some of the additional expenses of operating schools during a pandemic, and not all of those dollars have yet been expended.
Finally, our School Board and District Executive Team have always been conservative in our approach to budgeting and spending. We take seriously our roles as custodians of the public fund, which means to us that we need to live within our means and also make sure we are ready for an emergency. Given the financial situation in our State and Nation at this time, we feel it is prudent to prepare for the possible pandemic and/or post-pandemic fiscal risks our district may face.
We are aware of students struggling with extreme uncertainty, stress, anxiety, fear, and depression, and we want families to know that our principals and counselors are available to provide whatever support we can to students in distress.
Recently, our counselors and staff have been making extra efforts to connect families with resources for the holidays, as well as practicing extra social and emotional skills they can use during this time of increased stress. We gave out over 30 Thanksgiving baskets to families and are about to deliver over 125 boxes of Winter Break food next week through our partnership with the Open Hands organization. We have made all of our resources for families available “virtually,” including the ability to request support from a counselor, available on our websites and through student classroom portals (Canvas for secondary students and Google Classroom for elementary students).
Classroom teachers have also been spending extra time focusing on social and emotional learning, especially coping skills for stress and anxiety. For example, in 5th grade classrooms at Central, the counselor is teaching about mindfulness including the kind of breathing exercises and positive visualization that can help during increased times of stress or anxiety.
Next week (December 17), the District’s counselors will be hosting Thursday’s Facebook live program (at 4:00 pm) to chat about ways families and friends can support students’ social and emotional health during this time.
The short answer is Yes. The opt-out option is a protected in law. In order for parents to have the opportunity to exercise it, our teachers provide ample notification prior to teaching any of the sexual health lessons.
The process for families to opt out of either individual lessons or an entire unit involves working with their student’s school. Families are required to review the curriculum (available in each school’s main office) before completing an opt-out form. The teacher will then provide the student with alternate activities and assignments aligned with the topic of health. As a note, very few families choose to opt their child out of our health lessons once they have reviewed the curricula.
We are registering students right now for the Parent Partnership Program, and the first group will begin on January 4, 2021. However, we plan to offer rolling enrollment opportunities until the program reaches its capacity. That means families can sign up and be accepted at any time.
The Ferndale Family Partnership will provide classes and programs for students in grades K-8 and their families who are choosing home based learning as their primary educational model. During the 2020-21 academic year, students will meet remotely at least weekly with highly qualified teacher(s). The vision of the Ferndale Family Partnership in future years is to provide both remote and in-person instructional opportunities that meet the needs of students.
Families interested in determining whether enrollment in the Ferndale Family Partnership is the right choice for their children are invited to complete the inquiry form on the district website. Once they do, staff will reach out to schedule a conversation, answer questions, and, if appropriate, begin developing the student’s’ learning plan.
Little data supports the effectiveness of plexiglass in classrooms. Even though they may serve as barriers, they have their limits, according to epidemiologists and aerosol scientists who study airborne transmission of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that businesses “install physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards, where feasible” as a way to “reduce exposure to hazards” in places where people interact for a short duration of time, as in grocery store checkout lines. However, the dividers “do not address all possible modes of transmission, such as aerosol transmission, or fully protect anyone from COVID-19,” the University of Washington’s Environmental Health and Safety Department said in a July 2020 review of the benefits and limitations of plexiglass barriers at campus facilities.
The main reason we are not putting plexiglass in classrooms where a group of students and a teacher are going to be together for long periods of time is that such dividers have not proven to be effective enough in such settings to offset the false sense of security they suggest.
Referendum 90 (in support of Senate Bill 5395), which passed on November 3, requires school districts to provide comprehensive Sexual Health Education (SHE), with the opportunity for families to opt their children out. The referendum will not change our practice in Ferndale. We currently have two School Board Policies in place (2125 and 2126) that require us to provide SHE and HIV/AIDS prevention education to our students Both policies have provisions for families to choose to opt out of specific lessons or the entire unit.
In Ferndale, we already use OSPI-approved SHE curricula. At the elementary level, we use the Great Body Shop; at the middle level we use the KNOW curriculum; and at the high school we use FLASH (Family Life And Sexual Health). Our teachers and counselors ensure they cover the OSPI standards, which at the elementary level especially are grounded in the Social Emotional Learning also covered in our Second Step lessons.
This year, our SHE information session for parents of students in grades 6-12 was held on September 30. We plan to hold a SHE information session for parents of students in grades K-5 after winter break. We send invitations to these information sessions through our K-12 alert system, and our teachers also provide notification to families ahead of teaching the lessons.
The process for families to opt out of either individual lessons or the entire unit involves working with their student’s school. We ask families to review the curriculum (available in each school’s main office) before completing an opt-out form. The teacher will then provide the student with alternate activities and assignments aligned with the topic of health. As a note, very few families choose to opt their child out of our health lessons once they have reviewed the curricula.
Many things have changed over the course of this pandemic, but these three basic principles have remained constant:
- We are committed to the health and safety of staff and students as our top priority.
- We are committed to providing the highest quality, most equitable education we can to all of our students without jeopardizing their health and safety, the health and safety of our staff, or the health and safety of our community.
- We are committed to working closely with our local Whatcom County Health Department and making our decisions based on the guidance they provide to us.
When the Governor came out with his new restrictions on November 15, he stated clearly that he was not closing schools because there have been very few cases of in-school transmission. Rather, he directed local districts to work with their local Health Departments to decide how to proceed in their local setting.
At this time, Whatcom Health Department officials are not recommending we rollback what we are already doing to serve students in person in our schools, but rather that we put a pause on bringing back additional students.
While the Whatcom Health Department officials are not recommending we rollback what we are already doing to serve students in person in our schools, they are recommending that we put a pause on bringing back additional students. We are following this recommendation.
Yes. The Ferndale School District superintendent is in close weekly contact with the other Whatcom County superintendents. Although each school district is charged with making its own decisions, we never do so with checking in with our counterparts and the Whatcom Health Department.
As we learn more, we are able to finetune our responses to COVID-19, rather than using a broad brush to treat every activity with the same restrictions. The data does not show in-person learning in the hybrid model at the elementary level is contributing to community spread of the virus when health and safety guidelines are being followed. This is true of studies inside and outside the U.S. This is also true in the Ferndale School District, where we have yet to experience a single case of transmission of the virus in one of our schools.
Yes. We want to be as transparent as possible. To that end, our Executive Director for Human Resources, John Fairbairn, has begun publishing daily reports on COVID-19 related metrics to all district staff. Each day, he sends an email that gives the most up-to-date County rate, the number of positive cases in District students and/or staff, and any in-school transmissions that have occurred.
At the recommendation of the Whatcom Health Department, we continue to use Whatcom County metrics, not district-specific metrics. We are using the County rate to track the COVID-19 disease activity because: (1) The relatively small population of Ferndale means that very few cases can cause wild fluctuations in the rate, making it very difficult to determine a trend. (2) We do not have travel restrictions between districts. Many staff and some students live in other attendance areas and almost all of us travel to shop within other school boundaries, making the County more reflective of what our actual exposure may be.
Beginning January 2021, we will be providing a service to our families who choose to homeschool their children in grades K-8 and who are seeking additional support through a partnership with a school district.
For the academic year 2020-2021, the Ferndale Family Partnership will be housed on the Central Elementary School Campus. Our Executive Directors of Teaching and Learning, Kellie Larrabee and Faye Britt, will oversee the program; and the Ferndale Family Partnership Coordinator/Teacher, Amy Neverdahl, will lead instruction and facilitate family collaboration.
Students who choose the Ferndale Family Partnership will meet at least weekly and up to three days each week with highly qualified teachers, either on campus or remotely, depending on family preference and current COVID-19 guidelines. Staff and families will work collaboratively to create a personalized learning plan for each child for both home and school learning.
The Ferndale Family Partnership would be a good option, especially during this time of COVID-19 and remote or hybrid learning, for families who do not want the screen time that is typically involved in an online program and for those who have the flexibility to spend time supporting their child’s learning.
Families interested in determining whether enrollment in the Ferndale Family Partnership is the right choice for their children will be invited to complete an inquiry form that will soon be posted on the district website. Once they do, staff will reach out to schedule a conversation, answer questions, and, if appropriate, begin developing the student’s’ learning plan. Classes will begin in January 2021.
Yes! As in the past, Jump Start will start second semester of the 2020-2021 school year. Jump Start is a one-semester full-day kindergarten readiness program designed for incoming kindergartners who have not attended pre-school and could therefore use a “jump start.” Children who are turning five-years-old before August 31, 2021 may be eligible for the Jump Start class that is beginning the end of January 2021. Anyone who would like more information should call Elvira Rosen at 360-603-6042 or email Rachel Bowlden at Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org. (Elvira is bi-lingual in Spanish.)
Whatcom Health Department officials explain the difference has to do with the ability to cohort and control interactions, which is possible in schools but not in restaurants. Restaurant dining contributes to risky social behaviors, like being in an enclosed space without masks for extended periods of time with groups of strangers. In addition, the adults in the classroom while children are eating are all wearing masks, which provide them with a layer of protection.
Both the Whatcom Health Department and WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Activities Association) have recommended we roll back all indoor athletic practices and activities. As such, we are now only allowing students to engage in outdoor activities in cohorts of five or fewer if they are wearing masks at all times.
We have been making plans. We were working to put together an intramural program at the middle level, but such activities are currently on pause while COVID-19 rates continue to go up. As an alternative, our middle school staff teams are working to develop and promote online clubs. To find out more information about what is available, or to share an idea for an online club, contact your school’s principal.
During this time when we are all relying heavily on distance teaching, learning, and meeting, our goal is to make sure every Ferndale student has a serviceable computing device. When students have problems with their devices, or the device fails to operate, students or their families should notify the school where the student is enrolled. We will make arrangements to repair the device, if that is possible. If the device cannot be repaired, we will swap it out for a different one.
The short answer is no, we will not be able to restore the programs that were cut at the end of last year. While the passage of the $1.50 levy is a very good thing, and it will prevent more devastating cuts in programs and people this spring, it does not restore us to the level we were last year.
Assistant Superintendent for Business and Support Services, Mark Deebach, made a presentation to the School Board on November 10, explaining the financial implications of the levy on the District budget for the current school year. In it, he shared the following figures:
- Revenue we would have collected during 2020-2021 from a levy at $2.17 for the first half of the year and $2.50 for the second half of the year (in other words, the amount we were hoping for when we ran the levy in February 2020) = $11.4 million
- Revenue we will actually collect from a levy at $2.17 for the first half of the year and $1.50 for the second half of the year = $9.8 million
- The difference for 2020-2021 between the February levy (which didn’t pass) and the November levy (which did pass) = $1.6 million
- Loss of revenue for 2020-2021 resulting from an enrollment decline of 300+ students (due to families withdrawing their children because of the pandemic) = $2.8 million
- Net revenue decrease (lower levy rate plus fewer students) = $4.4 million
- The total amount of budget reductions we made last spring = $4.2 million
As these numbers suggest, the passage of the levy in November will make us just about even with where we are right now -- after the cuts we made last spring.
We have a plan to provide opportunities for secondary students to have school pictures taken when we implement the hybrid model at the secondary level. At this point, that will not be until at least January.
According to the current schedule, this work will be completed during the summer of 2021.
If we do not renew our levy on November 3, all local levy funding runs out on December 31, 2020 -- which means all of the programs supported by the levy will lose their funding for the entirety of 2021 at that time.
In dollars and cents, a second levy failure will mean approximately $7.5 million less revenue for the school district in 2021. Because of the levy failure in February 2020, we had to cut approximately $4.2 million from our budget for the 2020-2021 school year, which resulted in laying off over 100 administrators, teachers, counselors, support staff, coaches, and advisors. If the levy fails in November, we will need to cut an additional $7.5 million on top of the cuts we have already made. The impacts will be devastating and take years to recover from.
On Saturday, October 31, 1:00-2:00 pm, Vista Middle School Red Ribbon Week Committee is sponsoring a “CruiseBy” through Ferndale neighborhoods. They are inviting families to dress up in their superhero or other costumes; decorate their vehicles with "Be Brave-Be Happy-Be Drug Free" messages; and join a caravan led by a Whatcom County Fire District 7 fire engine. All Ferndale families are welcome to attend. If they live on the route map, they are invited to come out and wave. Children will receive a bag of treats for participating in the "CruiseBy" caravan.
The District is following Department of Health and Labor & Industries guidelines related to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Most staff members working in offices, classrooms, and/or school buildings are only required to wear a cloth face covering. However, those staff with responsibilities that by nature increase their risk are provided increased levels of PPE. The pictures referenced on Facebook were taken in a Life Skills classroom, where staff members work in very close proximity to their students for an extended period of time. They were wearing gowns, gloves, and face shields to protect both themselves and the young people in their care.
According to a statewide order, all individuals in Washington State must wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth when they are in any shared indoor or outdoor public setting, except in rare instances when a person is unable to do so or during specified times designated for eating and drinking. This order includes both staff and students who are inside our school buildings or on our campuses.
Although research suggests that fitted face masks with ear loops are slightly more effective than other face coverings, the district is allowing staff and students to wear bandanas, neck gaiters, cloth masks, or three-ply disposable paper masks.
Yes. Through June 30, 2021, all students are eligible for free breakfast and lunch whether attending in person or via a distance model. Breakfast and lunch will be served onsite in schools to all students who want them. For distance students, multiple meals will be available for pickup at one time at designated sites. Students do not need to be present for pick up.
Even though the federal government has extended this meal option for all students, it is still very important for families to apply for free or reduced lunch. This information is used to provide fee waivers and help qualify the district for vital federal and state funds to serve students. Please find the Free and Reduced Lunch application here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/food-service/free-reduced-lunch-application.
We are using the county rate to track the COVID-19 disease activity for three primary reasons: (1) The relatively small population of Ferndale means that very few cases will cause wild fluctuations in the rate, making it very difficult to determine a trend. (2) We do not have travel restrictions between districts. In fact, many staff and some students live in other attendance areas. Almost all of us travel to shop within other school boundaries, making the county more reflective of what our actual exposure may be. (3) The leadership of the Whatcom County Department of Health, who was actively involved in our reopening planning and has provided ongoing support, recommends that we use a county-wide number to guide our district actions, because of “the economic and social interconnections within Whatcom County.” The county infection rates can be tracked by going to https://www.whatcomcounty.us/3427/COVID-19-Data, looking at the Whatcom County Risk Assessment Dashboard, and clicking on the second tab, titled “COVID-19 Disease Activity.” When you hover over the grey dots to the right of the graph, you can view the most up to date data.
Whatcom County has remained in the “Moderate Zone” in terms of COVID-19 activity level since last spring, with case rates between 25-75 per 100,000 population. When an upward trajectory raises concern that we could exceed 75 and enter the “High Zone,” we will monitor the situation even more closely. However, according to the Whatcom Health Department, we do not need to close school down and send students home immediately if the number goes above 75 for a short period of time. If, on the other hand, case rates remain above 75 for over two weeks, if they are elevated and rapidly rising, or if they are elevated with multiple associated school outbreaks, the Health Department will recommend a return to operations consistent with high community infection rates. In other words, we might have to go back to all distance learning.
The most recent letter to Whatcom County superintendents from Dr. Stern, the chief medical officer at the Whatcom County Health Department, says:
We anticipate that COVID-19 infections will occur among students and staff of schools and it is the effectiveness of the measures taken to suppress transmission within schools and our communities that will allow us to sustain safe operations of our schools and businesses. To the extent that community infection rates can be reduced through physical distancing, use of face coverings to reduce transmission by those who are infected, minimizing size of gatherings, and hand hygiene, we can maintain and eventually open up operations. In addition, when infections occur it is critical to identify them early, for those who are infected to isolate themselves from others while contagious, and for their close contacts to quarantine during the time they could become infectious after exposure. Therefore, schools need to assure that students and staff who are infected or are close contacts to cases are excluded from school for the duration of their isolation or quarantine periods. This will reduce the risk of transmission at school and prevent outbreaks that could result in closures, health risks to others, and disruption of instruction for many.
In Ferndale, we are faithfully following the Health Department’s guidance.
Our middle and high school principals and leadership teams are continuing to work on developing in-person option(s) for their students that meet all of the health guidelines, especially in terms of cohorting and group size, which is considerably more complicated at the secondary level where students take multiple classes and have multiple teachers every day. We have a draft plan for second quarter, which begins the week of November 9. Although we are still working out lots of details, here is a general outline:
- For most students, instruction in regular classes will be delivered online through the end of second quarter, which is in January.
- We will continue to operate our Safe Remote Access Sites for students who need them.
- We will start bringing some additional students into our buildings for in-person, small-group targeted support in the afternoons. These will include:
- Students with an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) who are in need of in-person targeted support.
- Students in our general education classes who, based on data, are in need of small-group targeted support in their core content areas.
- Students who request themselves, or whose parents request, that they attend in-person targeted support and have made a specific appointment with their teacher(s).
- Students at Ferndale High School who are enrolled in some CTE classes (welding, small engines, and so on) where it is very difficult for them to attain skills remotely.
- We will continue to explore ways to address our secondary students’ needs for some level of social interaction.
Last spring, when coaches and advisors had signed contracts, done all the preseason preparations, and begun working with students involved in their activities and teams, we joined the vast majority of other school districts and decided to continue to pay them their stipends. When we did so, we also required documentation of activities that each coach and advisor engaged in during the period of shut-down. Examples from their logs include the following:
- Communicating regularly with athletes and/or club members
- Helping to keep students academically engaged
- Developing and sending workout plans
- Participating in professional development activities to sharpen their skills
- Creating training videos
- Increasing training on injury prevention
- Communicating with college coaches on behalf of students/athletes
- Participating with players in training on the mental aspects of athletics
- Collecting gear and other school equipment
- Maintaining equipment and fields
- Taking inventory
- Conducting fundraisers
The one aspect of high school where we have figured out how to meet health and safety guidelines related to limiting group size and maintaining consistent cohorts is in extracurricular activities. Therefore, we made a plan to begin phasing in athletic practices and other activities on Monday (October 26).
According to Athletic Director, Eric Tripp, we are working into a "summer" practice mode, which allows coaches to practice with their players. This window of opportunity will extend through December 18, with the time divided by activities into 2-3-week sessions. Since coaches are volunteering their time during this period, and not every coach is available, not all sports and activities will be taking part. The coaches who are participating will adhere to all mandated guidelines, including practice times and health and safety protocols. Here is the plan:
- Students need to be cleared for activity on Skyward before they participate. ASB and Pay to Play fees will not be collected during this time.
- Teams practice two or three times per week.
- Athletes are kept in small groups as much as possible during their practices.
- Social distancing, limited facilities, and constant cleaning of equipment are executed.
- Masks are worn at all times.
- There will be no competition with outside teams during this period.
The first session of activities, beginning October 26, includes football, volleyball, softball, baseball, and drama. The second session, beginning in November, will include basketball, wrestling, and cheer. Other activities may be added as advisors determine student interest and feasibility. You can find more information about Ferndale practice schedules on the district website. For a complete description of the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) guidelines related to athletics, follow this link: https://www.wiaa.com/News.aspx?ID=1732&Mon=10&Yr=2020.
At this time, we do not have plans for any sports options for middle schoolers during second quarter. We intend to implement an intramural program once we have returned to in-person learning.
Our main reason for posting internally was financial. The February levy failure and the sizable decrease in enrollment this fall have significantly restricted our budget. With our enrollment down by more than 300 students (which translates to nearly $3 million), we considered whether we could hire an internal candidate and absorb their position to save money.
Since our original posting, we have decided the workload defined by the job description is more than one person can do alone. Therefore, we are reconsidering our initial plan in favor of implementing a team approach. We have two internal staff members who have agreed to join this new team part-time, retaining part of their other duties as well. When our financial situation allows, we will reopen the position to outside candidates who might better address the diversity aspects of the work.
The most challenging aspect of kicking off our hybrid learning model had to do with bus routes and pick-up times. We have given our Transportation Department an extremely difficult puzzle to solve -- figuring out how to transport PreK-12 students from all over the District to nine campuses in three different groupings (our AA kids, our BB kids, and our Remote Access Site kids) using only a portion of bus fleet, which is all we can afford to run within the current state funding model. We acknowledge that things didn’t go as smoothly as we hoped on the first days of bringing students back. But we regrouped, made some adjustments, and believe we have addressed the major hiccups.
With different bus riders on Mondays and Tuesdays than on Thursdays and Fridays, and with more students returning to in-person learning every week, we are having to reroute our buses every couple of days. While we are working to make the schedule as predictable as Possible, we know there will be more variability in pick-up and drop-off times than there was in our old world, where bus routes were set at the beginning of the year and remained relatively stable from that point forward.
The closing of Intalco has had a major impact on our community. The loss of 800 jobs is a significant blow. The school district will most certainly feel the impacts through lost enrollment, tax revenue, and local fundraising. However, we are not in a position to be able to isolate the impacts of Intalco from the other economic issues that the district is facing right now. With the loss of our levy funding, and the impacts of COVID-19, we are dealing with several financial struggles simultaneously and cannot quantify the Intalco impact independently.
No. Students may participate in distance learning whether or not their vaccines are up-to-date. However, we will not be able to allow students back into any level of in-person learning or activity on one of our campuses without vaccines.
The pandemic and decision to open in a full distance learning mode (which was not made until August) meant that our counselors had to completely reschedule the whole high school. In an ideal world, we would have a full staff of counselors, whom we could afford to pay to come in during the summer to do this work. However, we aren’t living in an ideal world.
Because of the failed levy, our counseling staff at FHS was reduced from four to three, which means each counselor has a caseload of about 450 students. Our shift from an eight-period weekly schedule to a quarter system meant that these three counselors had to adjust each student’s schedule manually. That process took at least 5 minutes per student, which is about 40 hour’s worth of work. The third day of school was the soonest we could get it done.
We did however, make use of the September 2 and 3. During these first two half days of school, students attended daily information assemblies where they were introduced to our new Character Strong curriculum, connected via the telephone with their advisors, worked out any bugs with their devices, and completed several tutorials on using the new online resources.
According to the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office, ballots for the November 3 election will be put in the mail on October 13, which means they should arrive in mailboxes no later than October 16.
If you will be 18 years or older by November 3 and you aren’t yest registered to vote, you can get signed up online at www.sos.wa.gov. If you do so before October 26, you will be eligible to vote in the November 3 election. It is also possible to register in person at the Auditor's office all the way up to the day of the election, November 3.
We have voter registration forms in all of our school offices and the district office as well. Please reach out to us if you need assistance.
No. In the State of Washington, school bonds, like the one our community passed in November 2019 to build a new facility for Ferndale High School, require a 60% plus one super majority to pass. However, School Operations and Programs Levies, like the one the Ferndale School district has on the ballot for November 3, can be passed with 50% plus one affirmative votes.
No. This is not a new tax. The levy we are asking our community to consider on November 3 will replace our existing School Programs and Operations Levy at a lower tax rate. The current levy (at a tax rate of $2.17) expires on December 31, 2020. If approved, this new levy (at the lower tax rate of $1.50) will begin generating resources for the school district in January 2021 and run for two years (until December of 2022).
A levy is like a magazine subscription. It lasts for a specified number of months, during which time you receive a magazine each month. When the subscription ends, you either renew it or you stop getting the magazine. Our last levy “subscription” is running out. We already tightened our belts significantly when the levy on the February 2020 ballot failed. The result was laying off more than 100 staff. We either have to renew the levy at a lower rate in November or make additional cuts in the educational programs we offer Ferndale students.
The law allows us to run the levy twice in a calendar year. February was the first time the district took the levy to voters in 2020. November will be the second time.
The district did listen to voters. The main concern we heard in February was that the $2.50 tax rate was too high. Therefore, the School Board lowered the rate to $1.50, which is the amount citizens will be voting on in November.
I expect the district will continue to give voters the chance to provide high-quality education for the students of Ferndale by putting levies on the ballot. Local levies have long been an integral part of the funding structure for Washington schools. All six of the other public school districts in Whatcom County passed their replacement levies in February 2020. That same month, Ferndale failed its levy for the first time since the 1970s. Since students aren’t able to vote themselves, the district must persist in making the case to our community for the support they need for their schools.
The district has posted information about the levy on our website. It can be accessed here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/business-support-services/levy.
We considered using Edgenuity K-12. However, Edgenuity only offers site licenses (one fee for a whole school) for their online “textbooks” at the secondary level. At the elementary level, they charge a per student fee that was cost prohibitive for us, especially given our current economic situation.
Our research revealed that Edgenuity actually purchases their elementary online resources from Accelerate Ed, and Accelerate Ed does offer site licenses. Therefore, by choosing Accelerate Ed, we solved two issues: (1) we increased the likelihood of continuity in the scope and sequence between our elementary and secondary curricula; and (2) we kept within the constraints of our budget.
In dollars and cents, Accelerate Ed cost us about $40,000 for all district elementary students, whereas using Edgenuity at the elementary level would have cost more than $370,000.
As a service to our students, we provide college admissions personnel, scholarship providers, and military recruiters with contact information for high school students. Parents have the opportunity to opt out if this service on their student’s registration form. These have been long-standing protocols in our school district, as they are in many other districts.
Taking attendance in our virtual world is a little more difficult, but it is just as important as it has always been. Taking attendance allows us to understand when students are missing instructional time. Absences aren’t used punitively, but recording them ensures our proactive response to support students’ engagement with school.
During distance learning, attendance is being taken in one of the following ways:
- Students log into Canvas (secondary) or Google Classroom (elementary). This is our primary method of taking attendance. Think of it as the student walking through a classroom door.
- Or the student is interacting with an educator in any way.
- Or the teacher sees evidence that the student is working on an assignment or learning task.
In our school district:
- At the secondary level, attendance is recorded daily for each class period regardless of whether the student/class meets synchronously or asynchronously. That means (a) all six periods at the middle school; (b) all four periods at the high school; and (c) Eagle Time or Advisory, on the days they occur
- At the elementary level, attendance is recorded daily for logging into the student’s Google Classroom or connecting with the teacher or school.
- Families will be notified of any student’s absence via evening phone calls.
Absences will be excused if:
- Parents or guardians notify their student’s school by telephone or email with the reason for the absence within 48-hours.
- The student misses school for illness, chronic or extended health condition, family emergency, religious or cultural purposes, parental approved activities, and disciplinary actions.
- Due to COVID-19, the absence is:
- Related to student’s illness, health condition, or medical appointments due to COVID -19.
- Related to caring for a family member who has an illness, health condition, or medical appointments due to COVID-19.
- Related to a student’s employment or other family obligation during regularly scheduled school hours, temporarily necessary due to COVID-19 and until other arrangements can be made.
- Related to the student’s parent/guardian work schedule or other obligations during regularly scheduled school hours, until other arrangements can be made.
- Related to the student’s lack of necessary instructional tools, including internet access or connectivity.
- Related to other COVID-19 circumstances determined by the family and school.
From the first day of school (September 2), we have been operating Safe Remote Access Sites at Custer Elementary, Central Elementary, and Horizon Middle School for students to use our district internet if they can’t get connectivity in their homes. Students were invited to come to one of these sites based on the information their families provided us about their internet challenges. Whenever possible, we tried to solve families’ internet issues by providing hotspots or enhancing their home internet in some other way. When no other solution has been possible, we have been bringing students into one of our buildings to use our internet to access their virtual classrooms. We are not offering in-person instruction in these Safe Remote Access Sites. Students are being supervised by paraeducators, but they are still part of our distance learning program, with their regular teachers delivering instruction online.
The school buses on the roads in the morning and afternoon are transporting students to one of the Safe Remote Access Sites.
Part of the answer has to do with numbers. We are serving significantly fewer students at these internet access sites than we would be serving in any version of in-person learning, even the hybrid model. The second part of the answer has to do with what the students at these sites are and are not doing. They are learning remotely, just like their classmates at home. They are not supposed to be interacting with one another or a teacher in the same way they would if they were in an in-person learning setting. With smaller numbers and limited interaction, we are able to meet all of the Health Department guidelines relevant to our current stage.
One of the big questions people are asking is when are we going to start bringing students into our schools for some in-person learning. To indicate where we are with that question, we put a status meter on our district website that is aligned to the metrics from the Health Department. Earlier this month, community infection rates in Whatcom County were signaling that we could begin planning to move from our current Stage 2 status to Stage 3. During Stage 3, the Health Department says that some in-person learning can occur, beginning with our highest priority students. However, the Health Department has also cautioned us that we need to move slowly in our process, allowing enough time for planning and then monitoring the impacts of our actions. So that’s what we’re doing.
We are making plans for a gradual process of returning students to buildings for in-person learning, hopefully beginning in October with some of our highest needs students. According to the recommendations made by the Reopening Task Force and adopted by the School Board, those would include developmental preschoolers, students in the Life Skills program, and other students with particularly high needs, followed by our students in primary grades. We have mapped out a preliminary plan for discussion with the School Board and the leadership of our employee groups.
We are very anxious to get kids back in classrooms, but our top priority remains health and safety. Therefore, our ability to implement our plans is dictated by metrics related to the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, Whatcom County has seen an uptick in infections over the second half of September. We are monitoring Health Department data closely and hoping this trend line turns around. Once we have seen the numbers in our county go down for two consecutive weeks, we will schedule the first date in our process of bringing students back to our schools for in-person learning. In the meantime, we are continuing our planning processes so we are ready to go when that happens.
Daily health attestations are one of the requirements of having staff and/or students back in our buildings To help streamline this required safety routine during the pandemic, we joined a number of other school districts in the region in purchasing a license to use an online application developed by a company called Qualtrics. Qualtrics offers an online health attestation that interfaces with our Skyward information system. That means that, instead of answering questions about your health on paper, the questions will come to you in an email (which you will have the option to change to a text) each morning. You will be able to answer them on your computer or phone, and your responses will be transmitted to your school via Skyward, clearing you to come onto campus.
Our first two attempts to launch the application on a small scale uncovered some glitches in Qualtrics software. The result was that some people got the online health attestation who shouldn’t have (and who hadn’t been forewarned), and some people did not get the online attestation who should have. We apologize for the confusion. We have been working with Qualtrics to solve the problem.
When your students are slated to start coming back into one of our buildings, you will be given more information about Qualtrics and then begin getting the daily notifications. Questions about Qualtrics or health attestations may be directed to John Fairbairn, Executive Director of Human Resources, at email@example.com.
In August, the USDA extended the flexibility that allowed school districts to continue serving free meals to any children who needed them into the fall months through as late as December 31, 2020. This was done to make sure children have access to nutritious food as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Given the relaxation of the rules regarding distributing meals this fall, some families may not have filled out a Free & Reduced Lunch application for the 2020-2021 school year. A new application must be filled out each year, regardless of whether or not you qualified last year. If you do not fill out a new application, you will be charged for your child’s meals as soon as the current flexibility in the rules ends -- and we have not been told exactly when that will be.
Qualifying for Free or Reduced Lunch also brings other services and supports to your family, like reduced school fees for things like athletics and driver education, reduced or waived Advanced Placement test fees, scholarship information, and reduced internet service fees in some cases.
If you have not filled out a Free & Reduced Lunch application for this year, please do so as soon as possible. You can access the application at this link: https://www.ferndalesd.org/food-service/free-reduced-lunch-application
As the use of the internet increases for learning purposes, we encourage parents and guardians to take an active role in monitoring their children’s online activity, including social media. Regular family conversations about internet safety are an important first step.
The district uses a filtering system called iBoss to help keep children safe on their school-issued devices. However, it is not perfect. Because of one parent’s vigilance, we learned recently about an inappropriate site that may not have been blocked by iBoss. The site is called Omegle.com, and it advertises opportunities to talk to strangers. With information from this parent, we have been able to make sure that particular site is blocked, but there might be others. We want families to let us know if their children encounter something inappropriate.
From another parent, we learned iBoss was not properly working on her child’s computer. We have discovered that a main reason for iBoss failures is that devices have been disconnected from the district wifi prior to the updates running to completion. It’s important to let updates finish before disconnecting the computer from wifi.
In short, parents and guardians should let their children’s teacher or principal know if they are experiencing any problems with the iBoss filter so we can help resolve it.
Not surprisingly, technology continues to be our biggest challenge in our new all distance learning school system. Here is information about how you can get support when your technology is not working as it should:
- Always start by contacting your child’s teacher or the principal or administrative assistant at your child’s school. They can usually help if the problem has to do with logons, passwords, updates, or directions for accessing certain programs. If they can’t help you, they will know how best to escalate your concern to the next highest level.
- Some problems are related to the online programs and applications our teachers are using -- like Canvas, Zoom, or Accelerate Ed -- that aren’t working as they should on your student’s computer. We have people with expertise in the software that are addressing those issues.
- Some problems stem from hardware that isn’t functioning properly. In other words, your student’s device is broken. We have two paid technicians and several interns from Whatcom Community College who work on fixing devices.
- We have established predictable office hours each week when one of the technicians will be available at each school building. Students can visit any of the locations for tech support daily from 1:00-3:30 pm.
- Monday: Horizon Middle School Library
- Tuesday: Cascadia & Custer Elementary Schools
- Wednesday: Vista Middle School Library
- Thursday: Central Elementary and Ferndale High School (Student Support Center)
- Friday: Vista Middle School Library
- We have implemented a telephone support line that you or your student can call if you are unable to establish a reliable internet connection. The number is 360-383-9888. One of our staff will ask you a series of questions to see if we can come up with a potential solution to help you.
- We are still awaiting the arrival of the 700 chrome books we purchased last spring. In the meantime, we are developing a plan for how we will distribute the new computers once they arrive. Our first priority will be to replace devices that are not functioning.
With 4500 people all trying to do their work using technology, a certain number of issues are inevitable. But we are diligently working through them. We are grateful to staff and families for help and patience.
In an ideal world, we would have support staff managing our websites on a daily basis. In Ferndale, however, we are operating in a world that is far from ideal. Because of the levy failure and the pandemic, we have been forced to lay off nearly 150 staff members since June 30 -- nearly a quarter of our workforce. The levy failure -- combined with a significant drop in enrollment this fall, which translates into significantly less money from the state -- has required us to be very, very cautious in our spending. We are trying to get by with what we have, which is the message we heard from our community when they failed to pass the levy. Unfortunately, we simply cannot provide the same level of service with 150 fewer employees than we did a year ago, especially since the other message we heard loud and clear was to cut people furthest from kids first – such as communications staff, administrators, and administrative assistants who used to work in the background on things like keeping our online presence up-to-date.
The first official day of the 2020-2021 instructional year remains Wednesday, September 2. During the week prior to September 2, our principals will be providing families with additional details about this year’s back-to-school plans.
We have been working all summer with a group called Connect Whatcom to come up with solutions for families who do not have adequate means of connecting to the internet. In some cases, the problem will be solved by providing a device. (We have more devices ordered. We are also hoping to free up some devices by instituting a Use-Your-Own-Device program for those students who own a computer they can utilize for schoolwork.) In some cases, we can solve connectivity issues by paying for internet service or by providing a hotspot or a booster. In some cases, the solution is more difficult because of a basic lack of infrastructure in certain neighborhoods. For students who live at addresses where Internet is simply not available, we are working to develop Safe Remote Learning Spaces on our school campuses.
The registration survey the District sent all families the week of August 10 asked about the specific connectivity needs of each family. We are using data from that survey to reach out to families to develop the solution that will work for them.
Devices at the secondary level are being distributed the week of August 24. At the elementary level, devices will be handed out after school starts. A link to the device distribution schedule can be accessed here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/reopening-plan/student-devices
We all agree that the best place for our students to learn is at school. However, the immediate health and safety of our students, families, staff, and broader community needs to be our highest priority. To balance these two competing needs, the District will regularly monitor public health conditions and continue planning for a return to in-person learning in some form when we can do so safely. The Governor announced some metrics last week that can be accessed here: Decision Tree for Provision of In Person Learning among K-12 Students at Public and Private Schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The District has posted information on this topic on its website, which can be accessed here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/reopening-plan/learning-model-status
In our new virtual world, we know our website is more important than ever. For this reason, we made it a priority to build out a more robust reopening page on our District website. We launched the page on Friday, August 21 and it can be found here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/reopening-plan
Please know that our work continues, and we will be adding to the various sections of the reopening page on a daily basis. If the information you need is not there the first time you look, please check back the following day. Or enter your question into the box at the bottom of the page, and someone will get back to you.
The website is important, to be sure, but not enough. Therefore, we are ratcheting up our use of other communication tools as well. We have been holding every Thursday Facebook Live programs to provide information and answer questions. (They run from 4:00 to 4:30 pm and can be accessed through the District’s Facebook page.) During the week of August 17, we held three pop-up Zoom meetings for our non-English speaking families, one in Spanish (August 20, 6:00 pm), one in Russian (August 19, 6:00 pm), and one in Punjabi (August 19, 7:00 pm). Our bi-lingual staff helped get the word out about these pop-ups, which were designed to answer questions about the registration survey and everything else related to re-opening. During the week of August 24, we will be partnering with JOM to host a similar Zoom meeting with our Lummi families (August 26, 12:30 pm).
Families can also contact their child’s school with questions.
|Horizon Middle School||360-383-9850|
|Vista Middle School||360-383-9370|
|Ferndale High School||360-383-9240|
|North Bellingham Learning Center||360-383-9289|
Yes. People are asking whether we still need as many resources if all the kids will be learning online this fall. We absolutely do. Education has had to be reinvented to make sure we can keep everyone safe. And it’s true that in this new world some of the resources we need are different. But we definitely don’t need fewer resources. That’s one reason the levy in November is more important than ever. The other reason it’s so important is that it is a replacement of the current levy, NOT a new tax. And it is a replacement at a lower rate (down from $2.17 to $1.50). The replacement levy will provide funds beginning in January 2021, when the current levy runs out, and extending through December 2022. That means by the time this new levy funding kicks in, we will likely be back in our school buildings delivering in-person instruction and a full array of extracurricular opportunities for students, which we will need levy funds to support.
You can find additional information here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/business-support-services/levy
State law requires that each school district in the State has a balanced budget for the upcoming school year developed and approved by its school board by August 31. The Ferndale School Board approved the Ferndale School District’s 2020-2021 Budget at a special meeting on August 18. The budget can be accessed on our website at this address: https://www.ferndalesd.org/business-support-services/budget.
As you might have guessed, when most school districts in the region made the decision to open school remotely, the fall athletic schedule was pushed back. Those sports that were going to start in August and September will now occur in one of the other three seasons. Here is the link to the latest scheduling information from Washington Interscholastic Athletics Association (WIAA): https://wiaa.com/News.aspx?ID=1728&Mon=8&Yr=2020
We will be offering Traffic Safety through Ferndale High School this fall, beginning on Tuesday September 8. The course is nine weeks long and will end on Friday, November 6. The classroom portion will be delivered remotely three days per week through a combination of Canvas lessons and teacher-led Zoom meetings. The simulators will not be used until in-person instruction begins. Until then, an extra behind-the-wheel lesson will take the place of the simulator experience. The behind-the-wheel instruction portion of the class will be conducted in one-on-one sessions that adhere to all OSPI and Health Department guidelines.
Those who are interested in taking Traffic Safety this fall must attend (preferably with their parent) a mandatory Zoom orientation with Mr. Richard on one of these two dates: (1) Tuesday, September 8, at 5:00 pm or (2) Wednesday, September 9, at 7:00 pm. Attendance at one of these meeting will ensure a place in the fall class. To register for the mandatory orientation, contact either Mr. Genger at 360-319-9746/ firstname.lastname@example.org or Mr. Richard at 360-220-9575/ email@example.com to give them your email address. They will then send you an invitation to the Zoom meeting.
Here is a quick summary of where we are:
- We are working very hard to develop options for families that reflect what we have heard from them so far. We know that this unprecedented time for schools is not easy and families have different needs. We want to try to meet those needs to the best of our ability.
- We have recruited a Reopening Task Force made up of staff, families, students and community members. This group will be responsible for building out the options. You can read more about their work and follow along with their progress here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/covid-19/fall-2020
- So far, we have announced the following three options:
- A full-time distance learning option for those who do not want their children to return to in-person school.
- A rotating AA/BB option, which will provide a combination of in-person learning for two days per week and distance learning for three days per week according to a schedule something like this:
|AA (in person)||AA (in person)||Buildings closed
for all students
|BB (in person)||BB (in person)|
|BB (distance)||BB (distance)||AA (distance)||AA (distance)|
3. A phased-in option, which will involve some students spending more time in in-person
learning based on their age, grade level, internet access, and/or other educational need.
At this time, the District is still planning to have families choose one of the three options for September, although this situation is subject to change given the course of the virus. Recent news from across the state and nation demonstrates just how quickly things can change.
The short answer is that distance learning will look different than last spring. We have been working all summer to develop an improved distance-learning program. As part of this process, we will be adopting an online platform with curriculum designed to be delivered by our local teachers who know our local children. By the end of July, we will be announcing the platform we have chosen, and we think our distance learners will be pleased with the change.
|The Task Force members are listed below:|
|Abby Bryan, High School Student||Heather Leighton, Principal||David Rodriguez, Principal|
|Alvaro Vincente, Certificated Staff Member||Heather Longwell, Certificated Staff Member||Eric Tripp, Athletic Director|
|Andrea Swindle, Certificated Staff Member||Heather Lindsay, Parent/Guardian||Erin Vincent, Communication Director|
|Andy Fox, Parent/Guardian||Hector Suarez, Custodian||Faye Britt, Executive Director of Teaching & Learning, Facilitator|
|Melinda Brockie, Parent/Guardian||Holly Graham, Director of Accounting & Nutrition Services||Galina Shulga, Classified Staff|
|Anna Carlson, Parent/Guardian||Jamie Plenkovich, Director of Maintenance||Gary Dyck, Parent/Guardian|
|Darcilyn Bob, Parent/Guardian||Jayme Roegele, Classified Staff||Kellie Larrabee, Executive Director of Teaching & Learning, Facilitator|
|Brandi Tilton, Classified Staff||Jennifer Durocher, Parent/Guardian||Kimberly Cancelosi, Parent/Guardian|
|Chantee Ziemkowski, Parent/Guardian||Jeremy Vincent, Principal||Laurie Walloch, Certificated Staff Member|
|Chris Holeman, Custodian||Kelsey Ottum, Classified Staff Member||Lewann Eggert, Transportation|
|Margaret Morgan, Certificated Staff Member||Lee Anne Riddle, School Board Member||Linda Quinn, Superintendent|
|Mark Deebach, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Operations||Rebecca Champagne, Director of Special Education, Facilitator||Patti Hoelzle, Counselor|
|Melinda Cool, School Board Member & Parent||Renetta Pollock, Classified Staff Member||Paul Rosser, Director of Transportation|
|Melissa Welch, Certificated Staff Member||Ron Palmer, Maintenance||Peter Finstuen, Certificated Staff Member|
|Michele Stern, Certificated Staff Member||Sandy Bird, District Nurse||Rav Dhillon, Assistant Principal|
|Myla Musselwhite, Classified Staff Member||Sara Dessert, Certificated Staff Member||Tina Harmer, Classified Staff Member, PSE President|
|Nicole LaValley, Parent/Guardian||Sarah Perry, Parent/Guardian||Yvonne Green, Classified Staff Member|
|Obadiah DeWeber, Principal||Shannon Millican, After School Child Care Provider||Zac Doobovs, Public Health Nurse, Whatcom County Health Department|
|Pam Jenkins, Classified Staff Member, Notetaker||Sophia Bianco, Student||Tammy Alejandre, Certificated Staff Member|
|Patrice Valentine, Parent/Guardian||Bernie Thomas, Superintendent of Lummi Nation School||Crystal Lawrence, Parent/Guardian|
|John Fairbairn, Executive Director of Human Resources|
Washington State is requiring each school district to submit a re-opening plan that has been approved by its School Board at least two weeks prior to the first day of school in September. As such, the Ferndale Re-opening Task Force will be making a recommendation to the Board in the middle of August. However, the final decision about approving the plan will belong to the Board.
The one caveat is that the law allows the Governor, the Health Department, and/or the Superintendent to make the decision at any time that it is unsafe to resume or continue in-person education.
In press release on July 22, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal answered this question. He said the following:
“We know that in-person instruction is the most effective model for supporting our students; however, the safety of our students and staff has always been our highest priority. For our districts who make the difficult choice to go online this fall, they will need to have plans in place to:
- Work with community partners to identify child care options for school-aged students whose families don’t have the option to stay home with a child each day;
- Address gaps in connectivity and technology access so each student has sufficient opportunity to continue their learning outside of the classroom;
- Continue providing school meals to the students who rely on them; and
- Utilize their local data to determine which of their students need additional intensive learning supports, and provide those supports remotely if possible or in-person when that is the only effective delivery method.
All school districts this year, including those who will provide their learning online, will need to have weekly schedules for each student, daily engagement or assigned work for each student, and requirements for daily attendance. In addition, all districts must meet the number of instructional days and hours required in state law, consistent with the State Board of Education’s rules on the definition of an instructional hour.”
We are operating in two spheres right now. One of them is dealing with the failed levy. All of the short-term solutions we have developed to preserve some athletics and activities are strictly aimed at how we will preserve opportunities for students this year, if such athletics and activities are allowed. In other words, if the world were normal, we have figured out a way to keep some sports, marching band, and drama for 2020-2021. We want our constituents to know this is something they can count on this year.
In the other sphere – the one related to the pandemic – we are not likely to be able to provide most of those activities this fall. What we meant to convey at the Board meeting is that we have been able to save stipends for certain activities to make sure they are available in Ferndale in 2020-2021, if they are available everywhere else in Whatcom County. The outcome of the November levy election will determine what happens in future years.
The WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Athletics Association) made a big announcement on July 22. The short version is that there is not going to be football and volleyball in Washington State high schools in September. Instead of the traditional three sports seasons, WIAA is proposing four shortened seasons. At this time in the Northwest Conference, the only fall sports we will be offering are cross country and boys’ tennis. The decision is still out on girls swimming and golf in the fall. Basketball and wrestling are scheduled to start in January; football, volleyball, and girls soccer will start in March; and baseball, fastpitch, track, and boys soccer will start at the end of April -- although, as we know, all of this is subject to change. If you want to look at the whole proposed WIAA sports calendar, you can access it here:
Yes. The levy is more important now than ever. The District recently cut nearly 100 positions from our school district because of the levy failure in February. This is a devastating loss. This school district has always been about building the future of Ferndale – we cannot do that without staff and technology, both of which the levy pays for. Our staff continues to commit themselves to meaningful work which, in some cases, looks different than the job they may have been hired for. But for many staff, these months have been the hardest of our professional lives. Teachers have re-invented their craft. Custodial staff have learned new standards for cleaning during a pandemic. Para-educators have distributed food, copied, mailed and delivered thousands of packets. The list is infinite and I can tell you from personal experience that there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything this new reality requires of us. The work we are tackling as a district today is different work than we were doing a year ago but, as always, we are rising to the challenge and meeting the current needs of our students and community. We need levy dollars to continue to do so.
The short answer is this: It doesn’t cost less to provide education in the pandemic world. By most estimates it costs more. And, hopefully, we aren’t going to be living in this world forever.
The District will ask voters to approve the levy at $1.50 per thousand of assessed value for two years, which is lower than the current rate of $2.17 per thousand of assessed value.
This levy that will be on the ballot in November is not a new tax. If it is approved, it will replace the current levy used to fund schools. The current levy expires on December 31, 2020. The new, lower levy would go into effect on January 1, 2021
The Ferndale School District will always stand behind our students’ First Amendment rights. As such, we support those students and alumni who organized a Black Lives Matter march in our community as long as they are peaceful and follow current safety guidelines related to wearing masks and social distancing. We encourage our community to model respect anytime students legally and peacefully assemble to protest.
The City of Ferndale recently published the following statement, with which we agree: The City is aware of the upcoming youth-led Black Lives Matters rally scheduled for July 31. The City has not issued a permit for the event as Whatcom County is still in Phase 2 and gatherings over five people are not allowed; however the City has been in communication with the organizers.
For all who choose to participate, whether in support or opposition, the City strongly urges residents to practice social distancing, wear masks, obey all laws and most importantly, peacefully assemble.
“Our students have a civic right, and in my opinion, a responsibility to peacefully raise their voices and advocate for what they believe. As do all of our residents, no matter their beliefs or concerns. Wherever you stand, we are a community of neighbors. Ferndale can all agree to a respectful discourse without ugliness, intimidation or threats,” said Mayor Greg Hansen. 7 Ferndale Police will be on site to monitor the situation and will take action as necessary to protect the safety of the community and our residents.
The unrestricted fund balance (sometimes called the “reserves” or “the rainy day account”) is the amount of money in a school district budget that has not been designated for any particular expenditure during a given year. The unrestricted fund balance has three main purposes: (1) to take care of unforeseen emergencies; (2) to hedge our bets in case our predictions regarding student enrollment or tax collections turn out to be wrong; and (3) to avoid cash flow problems.
Prior to passing the bond, our school district built up our reserves in case we had to do major repairs on Ferndale High School without bond money. Last year, we started spending down our reserves. If the levy had passed last February, our plan was to use the reserves to help us gradually absorb and adjust to higher costs of doing business -- particularly those related to the State’s new employee benefits plan -- without having to lay off staff. When the levy failed, so did that plan. To balance our 2020-2021 budget without levy dollars, we have had to lay off nearly 100 staff members and also use $6 million of reserve funds.
Although this may be the rainy day we’ve been saving for, the use of reserve funds to balance the budget is a short-term solution. Our savings account took years to build up. Once we spend such a large portion of it this year, we won’t have it to bail us out of difficult situations during the years ahead.
The Ferndale School District is recording its School Board meetings while they are being conducted via Zoom. Those recordings can be accessed here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/school-board/zoom-meetings-information.
Our salaries and pay rates are in line with neighboring school districts. We work really hard to recruit and retain talented employees in Ferndale, and to do so we must offer competitive compensation.
The majority of the money for the 1.6% pay increase our teachers are getting comes from a “cost of living” increase in apportionment from the state.
If you are reading these words, I suspect you are interested in knowing what our plans are for reopening schools this fall. I recommend two places on our website for these updates:
a. For information about our Reopening plans including our Reopening Task Force, please see: https://www.ferndalesd.org/covid-19/fall-2020.
b. For all recent communication sent to families during our school closure period, please take a look at our main COVID-19 resources page here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/covid-19.
There are also other sources of regular information about the District:
c. We continue to communicate weekly updates about the progress of our 2019 Capital Projects Bond. Those updates can be found here: https://www.weareferndale.org/updates/.
I appreciate this concern. However, decisions about whether children or staff are required to wear face masks in schools is not a local decision. Our State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal has made it very clear that the only way school districts are going to be allowed to re-open and receive state funding next year is by complying with health guidelines. The Department of Health says masks are non-negotiable.
On June 20, Superintendent Reykdal released a 12-minute video that answers questions about re-opening school. You can access that video here: Supt. Reykdal answers questions from the public about going back to school in the fall - YouTube.
Yes. The District will continue to communicate with staff, families, and the community throughout the summer as we plan for re-opening in the fall. We will use all of our usual methods of communication as well as our website. You can always check our website for the latest information, as well as everything we have shared in the past about the COVID-19 shutdown. During the first week in July, you will also find information about the Ferndale Re-Opening Task Force we are initiating to ensure broad-based participation in our planning process. All things COVID-19 related can be found at this link: https://www.ferndalesd.org/covid-19/index
The District has created a page on our website to house levy-related information, which you can access here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/business-support-services/levy. We will continue to provide information through the website, newsletters, and social media as we get closer to the November election.
There are differences in pay between employee groups based on job type, experience, training and formal education, level of responsibility and accountability, and number of days/hours worked. Hourly wages between classroom teachers and administrators are much closer than overall salaries suggest. Administrators are required to work many more days and hours. All of these factors contribute to differences in pay rates between various positions in school districts, just as they do in most workplace settings. Please also understand that our salaries and pay rates are in line with neighboring school districts. We work really hard to recruit and retain talent in Ferndale, and to do so we must offer competitive compensation.
Administrators will not receive raises in the 2020-2021 School Year. Like several of the District’s other employee groups, the Principals’ Association’s contract with the District was open for re-negotiation this spring. Pay increases are bargained between groups represented by unions/associations and the District. Given the current financial situation in our School District, the Ferndale community, and the State of Washington, the Principals’ Association declined a raise for the upcoming school year. Other District administrators generally receive increases commensurate with the principals. They will not be getting raises next year either.
We are humble beyond measure. Losing 10-15% of our staff and 20% of our administrators is devastating. We are grieving these losses.
Regarding surveying parents, we are constrained by election authorities (the Public Disclosure Commission) from polling voters in advance of a ballot measure like a levy proposal. We are also prohibited from campaigning. We can only educate and provide information about levy-related proposals. That’s why we always try to provide an accurate picture of what the levy funds and what happens when a levy fails, BUT we do not ask our community to vote in any particular way or ask them to tell us in advance what tax rate they would support.
The reality is that kids do suffer when levies fail. That’s not political. It’s just a fact. As a reminder, here are a list of things that our levy funds:
School staff. The levy funds nurses, teachers, security officers, counselors and paraeducators, beyond what our state allocates.
School services and programs. The levy funds and supports special education, advanced learning, lower class sizes, and our eight-period high school schedule, which allows more elective classes.
Technology for both school and at-home learning. The levy funds much-needed technology for our students and staff, including providing students in grades 6-12 their own computer that can be used for both classroom and at home learning.
Student services and opportunities. The levy allows our students to participate in extracurricular activities like athletics, music, drama and clubs.
Budget information is posted on our website and can be found here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/business-support-services/budget
There are multiple ways to count people in a school setting. It depends whether you are considering FTE (full time equivalency), head counts, or partial positions. The information (below) is the best breakdown of our lay-offs that we have at this point. However, as we speak, there are a limited number of people who may have already been reinstated from the cut list. And we hope to be able to bring back others through attrition; new grants; or repurposed Federal Title 1 money, State LAP funding, and/or the High Poverty funding available to schools with higher levels of low income families. In other words, despite losing our levy funding, we are trying desperately to rehire staff who can help us fulfill the priorities set by our School Board.
The total reductions we have made amount to 10-15% of our total staff. They include:
FAAA (Administrative Assistants)
- 37 hours of layoff and 3 hours of leave of absence that was not replaced
- 40 total hours
- 5 full 8-hour positions (if combined for FTE)
- 8 people impacted
- 231 hours a day
- 38 layoffs
- 38.5 6-hour positions, which translates into 28.9 8-hour (FTE) positions
- 24 hours (6 4-hour positions) lost to attrition (resignations and retirements that were not replaced)
Professional Technical Employees (sometimes called Prof Techs, these employees provide a wide range of specialty services and are not part of any union group)
- 8 people laid off (59.9 hours/day) and 1 retirement (6.2 hours/day) that was not replaced
- Total of 66.1 hours/day
- 8.3 8-hour positions
- 6 full time/full year positions
- 5 certified administrators plus 1 classified administrator
- 1 of the certificated reductions was the result of a retirement that was not replaced
FEA (teachers, counselors, certificated nurses)
- 26.2 FTE, which resulted from a combination of:
- Non-continuing contracts not replaced or renewed
- Not filling positions vacated due to resignations
- Not filling positions vacated due to retirements
SEIU (custodians and maintenance personnel)
- 40 hours/day
- 6 people impacted
- Equivalent to 5 8-hour positions
We canceled our contract with the Ferndale City Police to provide an SRO in our schools because of the failed levy. The cost of a part-time police officer was nearly $90,000 per year. When we were cutting so many other staff, including counselors, we could no longer support this expense.
We will maintain our close working relationship with Ferndale Police, and it should be noted that they will continue to respond to our calls when we need them. The 4800 students and 600+ staff who work in Ferndale Schools are part of the citizenry the police are charged to serve – whether or not a particular officer is paid for by the District to focus on this population.
For two reasons, we are not going to be running our full slate of summer school programs this year. The first reason is that some version of physical distancing will still be in place during the summer, and we don’t believe additional online learning and/or packets are going to address the needs of those students who generally attend summer school. The second reason is that, because of the levy failure, we are doing everything we can to reduce expenditures. Every dollar we can save now will help us maintain programs later.
The only two Summer School programs we will offer this summer are:
- Extended School Year (ESY) -- a special education program designed for students whose IEPs call for support beyond the 180 days of the regular school year.
- High School Credit Recovery -- online courses offered through a platform called Edgenuity designed to give secondary students the opportunity to make up failed credits and get back on track for graduation.
The answer is yes. We are continuing to make progress on the projects included in the bond package Ferndale voters approved in February 2019.
Bond funds are completely separate from school district operating funds, which include levy dollars. We are not allowed to use bond funds to backfill any loss of funding created by the levy failure -- even if we wanted to. We are committed to using bond funds in the way our community intended them to be used.
With that said, I am pleased to report our bond projects are proceeding on budget and on schedule. I have been documenting our progress in weekly Bond Updates since shortly after the ballot measure was approved. In fact, I sent my 61st Friday progress report on May 22. If you are not currently subscribing to the weekly emails, you can do so at the following link: Subscribe Now
One of our main priorities for designing the site layout for the new high school is pedestrian safety. There are two major changes that will help with this: (1) buses and parent drop-off will be completely separate, with different entrances and driveways; and (2) students will not have to cross bus or parent drop-off traffic when walking to the school building from the student parking areas. The plans aren’t yet developed enough to show exact lighting locations, but the intent is to provide adequate site lighting for safe walkways during evenings and dark winter mornings.
Rest assured that the PEMB will blend in with the rest of the campus so that the casual observer should not even be able to tell it is a different type of construction. The current renderings of the FHS building illustrate that the PEMB portions (circled in red) will become a cohesive part of the new school.
OSPI stands for Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Led by Superintendent Chris Reykdal, OSPI is the primary agency charged with overseeing public K–12 education in Washington state. Working with the state's 295 public school districts and six state-tribal education compact schools, OSPI allocates funding and provides tools, resources, and technical assistance so every student in Washington is provided a high-quality public education. OSPI is housed in the Old Capitol Building in Olympia.
Since the onset of the pandemic, OSPI has established a special section of its website to house Covid-19 Guidance and Resources, which you can access here:
Yes. We have asked all of our teachers to record engagement with students and families in Skyward in order to comply with the state’s new attendance-taking requirements. (Note: Engagement for attendance purposes does not necessarily mean students are successfully completing their schoolwork, only that they are still connecting with us and remain part of our school community.) These student engagement/attendance records will be reported to the state.
A team of administrators and staff at Ferndale High School are continuing to work with seniors and parents to develop the best way(s) to honor the achievements of the Class of 2020 in our new physically-distanced world.
The state has recently come out with guidance allowing that, as in the past, senior students may be dismissed five days before the last day of school for everyone else. Therefore, Friday, June 12, will be the final school day for the members of the Class of 2020. That evening, we are planning (in conjunction with the City and the Police Department) some kind of Senior Parade.
Commencement itself will occur on Saturday, June 13 via a virtual ceremony produced with help from Jostens. The high school staff is also working on virtual versions of scholarship night and the School Board’s traditional honoring of outstanding seniors in each discipline.
As you know, levies fund athletics and activities in almost all school districts in Washington state. That leaves us in a tough spot here in Ferndale, since our community did not pass the school district’s replacement levy last February. One of the casualties of our levy failure should be athletics and activities for students. I say, “should” because without the levy, we do not have money earmarked for these activities.
However, we have made a decision to save a version of our athletics and activities programs in Ferndale next year. The cost to students is just too high to consider doing otherwise and, ultimately, that cost would have been born by students who are already navigating the challenging waters of a global pandemic.
We are still developing the details of our funding plan for athletics and activities, but we know it will involve the following elements:
- Using savings realized by not running a full schedule of spring sports in 2020
- Instituting a pay-to-play fee for those students whose families can afford it
- Finding scholarships for those students whose families cannot afford pay-to-play fees
- Reducing transportation costs wherever possible
- Reducing staff costs wherever possible, including replacing some support positions that are currently paid with volunteers
- Eliminating “C” teams from our athletic program
- Changing our middle school athletic programs from interscholastic to intramural
- Soliciting donations
We are committing to athletics and activities for the 2020-2021 school year -- if they are allowed under the state’s school reopening guidance, that is. However, we do not believe our plan is sustainable beyond next year unless the levy passes in November. We will follow up with more specific details as they become available.
Our last day of school for the 2020-2021 school year will be Friday, June 19. When we built our calendar for the 2019-2020 school year, the last day of school was scheduled as Friday, June 12. Since we missed three days due to inclement weather, the last day of school was pushed back to Wednesday, June 17. As a result of the shutdown of in-person education due to the pandemic, the State has now declared the last day of school as Friday, June 19.
Ferndale students have been engaged in distance learning since Governor Inslee directed schools to close in March. This was not a choice but a directive from the state. It is important to note that we may be under a similar directive for the fall. When we know the parameters given to us by the state, including what (if any) choices we have regarding implementation, we will gather input from staff and parents.
We have received a number of emails from staff and families asking whether we are going to have sports and activities in the fall, since we won’t yet know whether the levy will pass in November. It is true that the levy funds the district’s portion of all extracurricular athletics and activities. It is also true that waiting until the November 3 election is too late for fall sports. However, we can hardly imagine Ferndale schools without sports and activities. Therefore, we are working hard to figure out how we can pull together enough resources to fund our fall extracurricular schedule. Our goal is to have a definitive answer about fall sports and activities by May 15.
Fall sports in 2020 come under the levy currently in place, which doesn’t run out until December 31, 2020. If the levy does not pass in November, we will probably not be able to run winter and spring sports.
We are spending a lot of time listening to our students as we make decisions regarding sports and activities. What we know from listening to them is that sports and activities are defining aspects of the culture of school. Given all that students have lost in this shutdown, we are trying to be mindful of how we support them when we return.
Some have asked how we could consider funding sports and activities when we will be losing staff because of the levy failure. The answer is that we have options available for funding sports and activities that we do not have available for funding staff. Levy funds only support a portion of sports and activities. Options for funding the remaining portion include:
- Returning to a pay-to-play system for those who can afford; offering scholarships for those who cannot. (We cannot legally ask students and families to pay for any part of the regular curriculum.)
- Using more ASB funds.
- Turning to the boosters for support.
In addition, coaches stipends are short-term and much less expensive than regular staff salaries.
We are also listening to parents, many of whom are telling us they will be compelled to withdraw their children from the Ferndale School District if we do not offer sports and activities and enroll them in another district that can provide such opportunities. If we lose even two dozen students, the accompanying loss of revenue will far exceed the cost of fall sports.
When we first came out with the list of programs and positions that would likely have to be cut if the levy failed, we were asked which ones would be put back first if funding became available. Everyone agreed the number one criteria should be impact on students. There is no question that sports and activities make a difference for students in virtually every way. Students who are connected and engaged at school do better academically, socially and emotionally. Research on this subject is indisputable.
So, we cannot close the book on this conversation. It is too important.
We are working hard to make elementary learning plans available on our website by Saturday each week. Unfortunately, we have less control over the hard copy packets, which have to be written, copied, assembled, and put in the mail within the span of a few days.
We are looking at a number of options for our hard copy packet production that may help us to increase efficiency. We are hopeful, but we are not able to make a guarantee regarding when the packets will hit your mailboxes.
The State put out new rules about grading on April 22. These new rules (which are not options but actual rules) are built on one main philosophical underpinning, which is “do no harm.” At the elementary level, all students making reasonable progress will be advanced to the next grade. Kellie Larrabee (Executive Director of Teaching & Learning) will be working with a group of principals and teachers to determine what our end-of-year report to elementary families will look like.
At the secondary level, the rules are a little more complicated. They include the following:
- Students will receive a letter grade or an “I” for incomplete for each course in which they are enrolled.
- Marks of “Pass,” “Fail,” or “No Credit” will not be allowed this term (except for courses that were already offered as Pass/Fail before the transition to distance learning).
- No student may receive a final grade lower than the one he or she was earning on March 16, when in-person school was shut down. Students can only improve their grades.
- Any student who receives an Incomplete must be provided opportunities to re-engage in the learning standards to earn a credit and a grade during summer or next fall.
- Every grade awarded this spring will be given a statewide Covid designator on the high school transcript to denote the unique environment in which the course was taken.
- Local school districts may determine which letter grades (A, B, C, D) they will offer in their new system -- in addition to the I for incomplete.(They are not required to offer all traditional grades.)
Our Ferndale secondary principals met last week to talk about the grading system. They are committed to processing this information with their school leadership teams before making a final decision about what grades we will offer.
Read the entire OSPI Bulletin explaining the new grading rules.
We have received a number of inquiries from both families and staff about when they can get their personal items out of their classrooms, especially now that we know we are not going back this school year. I want you to know that we hear you and that we are responding. We are currently in the process of putting together a small representative committee of administrators and staff members to develop a safe and orderly system for returning property to staff and students. I expect we will have a plan to share with you by May 1.
While we have given all teachers guidelines for Zoom usage, we are not requiring them to use Zoom to communicate with students. Some teachers may decide not to use Zoom for a variety of reasons, and we respect and support that decision. Teachers who opt not to use Zoom are expected to be in contact with students in other ways, including email and phone.
Our expectations is that teachers reach out to their students once per week by telephone, email, or videoconference. If you are concerned that you child is not being contacted, we recommend you start by calling or emailing the teacher directly. If you do not hear back within two business days, you should contact the principal. We want to know if there are breaks in communication so we can help resolve any obstacles.
Please know that some of our teachers are using their personal cell phones to contact students. Therefore, they are using the *67 feature, which prevents their phone number from showing up on the receiver’s phone. If you receive a “blocked number” phone call, it could be a teacher.
Our district counselors are developing new ways to support parents during this transition to distance learning and life at home during the pandemic. Specifically, they are making plans to offer three different kinds of opportunities for parents to connect with them and with each other to share ideas, resources, and whatever other kind of support is needed. These include (1) one-on-one coaching calls, (2) small parent support groups, and (3) open “coffee with the counselors” Zoom sessions. They want to provide a Spanish parent Zoom support call as well. Watch for more details about these opportunities within the next week or so -- either online or on a flyer in your student’s learning packet.
The short answer is “no.” We do not know anything apart from what has been said in public. What we can say is that, so far, the Governor has used a science-based approach to making decisions regarding this pandemic, and we believe that he will continue to do that. We will monitor continuing guidance from the Governor’s office and report back what we hear.
Yes. Coaches and staff responsible for athletic coaching and extra-curricular advising are being paid according to their contracts. Much of what they have to do is preloaded before the season begins, and much of that work was already completed when in-person education was shut down.
The Ferndale School District released information regarding Learning Plans to all families on Wednesday, March 25. Those resources can be found here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/covid-19/learning-resources
Our current plans are a bridge and provide optional resources and support for families while we work to re-establish contact with every student and family in the District. Our teachers and staff are in the process of reaching out to their students with the goal of connecting with everyone by the end of the week.
We plan to begin delivering new content and instruction starting April 13.
The guidance on this topic is evolving daily. We sent an email yesterday, March 25, to the families of senior students with updated information from the State Board of Education. The information that we sent can be found here:
From the State Board of Education:
The State Legislature passed a new law (EHB 2965) supporting the state's response to the novel coronavirus. This law includes a provision (see Section 10) that allows the State Board of Education to grant an emergency waiver to local education agencies (e.g., school districts, etc.) and private schools. The waiver will provide flexibility so individual students in the graduating Class of 2020 or earlier, who were on track to graduate, are not held back by school closures due to the novel coronavirus.
Under the emergency waiver program, public school districts, charter schools, and tribal compact schools will be able to apply to the State Board of Education for a waiver of certain high school graduation requirements. To get the waiver, schools and districts must demonstrate a good faith effort to address core course requirements and credit deficiencies (see OSPI Bulletin 022-20 for guidance on supporting seniors). In addition, the State Board of Education may waive credit-based graduation requirements and school day and instructional hour requirements for private schools.
The State Board of Education is working with partners to review different scenarios and considerations to ensure the program rules effectively support students, schools, and communities. The Board will hold a Special Meeting from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, to review the draft timeline and considerations for rulemaking. The Board expects to adopt emergency rules by the middle of April.
Our Family and Community Coordinators (FCCs) are working to create a central database of the things our families need beyond food. We will relay these needs to the staff at the Whatcom Unified Emergency Management Center, and they in turn can share them with the appropriate community agencies and resources. At this time, our FCCs do not have the ability to provide all the things that are being asked for (which include everything from toilet paper to internet access), but they can help find someone who can.
Yes. We are working in close partnership with emergency management agencies. Within the last few days, we have established a new relationship with the City of Ferndale whereby we have agreed to establish Ferndale High School as an emergency shelter, should such a space be needed. Among our facilities, we believe FHS can best accommodate quarantine, isolation, and health-related needs for our community. The logistics of such a site must include access for emergency vehicles, staff parking, resident parking, food preparation facilities, and restrooms/showers.
Since the beginning for the unexpected school closure the special education staff have been working to maintain the evaluation and IEP meetings as scheduled to ensure that individual needs are documented. This has meant learning how to conduct remote meetings, determine the most appropriate evaluation tools, and creative ways to document participation in what has historically been an in-person hands on process.
In an effort to support all students with the first round of learning plans there was a team of specialists including Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs), Occupational Therapists (OT’s) and Physical Therapist (PT) that contributed activities and resources to general learning plans. This was an effort to provide access points for the widest audience of learner. More recently, as the district has been working to increase the level of instructional resources provided to all students, our special education teachers have been active members focused on identifying and planning for individual student needs.
In addition, our special education teachers have been contacting individual families to establish the best method of communication for ongoing dialogue and setting families up with resources on a case by case basis. Over the coming weeks, our special education team will continue to work on providing support for students to ensure their access to the general education learning plans and provide supplementary resources as needed. Holding true to the premise of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) teachers will be working alongside the general education teachers to plan for and address individual student needs.
The best thing that you can do for your children is to listen to their concerns and try to validate their feelings. The world may feel particularly unpredictable right now and kids, like adults, process those big feelings in different ways. Here is a link to a great article you might be able to use as background for your conversations: https://medium.com/waospi/talking-to-your-children-about-school-closures-aeb3e6be6456
NOTE: We have received a number of questions during the past two weeks about the failed levy and what it will mean to our School District. Every day we are working to write answers to additional questions, which we are also posting on the Levy page of our District website.
The State will allow us to rerun the levy one more time in 2020. They have established three possible election dates: April 28, August 4, or November 3. The Board can choose to rerun the levy for the $2.50 rate, or they can choose to run at a lesser amount, like $1.50. The Board must also decide whether to run the levy for one, two, three, or four years.
If the Board wants to rerun the levy on April 28, they need to file a resolution with the County Auditor’s Office by Friday, February 28.
The $2.50 levy that we ran on February 11 would have provided our District with approximately $13 million per year for the next four years. Without any future levy funding in Ferndale, we will have to cut $7 million from our budget for the 2020-2021 school year (since we will still have 2020 levy money for half of that year) and $13 million from our budget for the 2021-2022 school year and beyond.
If we were to pass the levy at the $1.50 rate (instead of $2.50) in April, we will have to cut approximately $2.9 million out of next year’s budget (2020-2021) and approximately $5 million every year thereafter for the duration of the levy.
The levy pays for everyone we employ and everything we do that is not funded by the State. The State provides us dollars on what they call “the prototypical school model.” According to this model, our School District receives funding for less than one full-time nurse for all ten of our school sites. We employ four nurses. The other three are paid for our of levy dollars. In almost every staff category, we employ more people than funded by the State formula.
The levy also pays for things like our extracurricular activities and sports programs, our School Resource Officer and safety programs, and a significant portion of the technology we have in the District.
For a more complete list of what we will need to cut to reduce our budget by $7.2 million, please refer to the PowerPoint that can be accessed here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/business-support-services/levy
The short answer is no. We have 29 people doing administrative/leadership work in our district in 2019, and we had 29 people doing administrative/leadership work in 2009. For more information on this topic -- and a complete list of administrators from 2009 and administrators in 2019 -- refer to the PowerPoint (specifically slides 45-53) at this link on our levy page.
In the chart below, I have provided a numerical comparison of our student and staff numbers from 2009 and 2019. Please note that all of the numbers are reported in FTE (for Full Time Equivalency).
|335.13 FTE||326.12 FTE||-9.01|
|196.94 FTE||217.10 FTE||+20.16|
If the District were to sell the property on Church Road, the proceeds from the sale cannot legally be put into the general fund to offset lost levy dollars. These funds would need to be used for capital projects.
We are educating students at Beach at very close to the same per pupil rate as we are educating students in our mainland elementary schools, so closing Beach would not save us money. In fact, it might even cost us more to transport the Beach population to the mainland.
Students riding the ferry to and from school are not required to pay a fare. In addition, one adult chaperone is allowed to ride the ferry free to accompany mainland children who commute back and forth to Lummi Island to attend Beach School.
NOTE: Generally, the responses to community questions contained in this monthly publication are all generated from the Superintendent’s Office. However, this month I am also including a series of seven questions directed recently (between January 22 and February 14) to the Bond Oversight Committee (BOC), who also facilitated compiling the answers shared below. I offer my gratitude to the members of the BOC for their efforts to be thorough, transparent, and responsive to our community.
BOC=Bond Oversight Committee
FSD=Ferndale School District
CSG=Construction Services Group
BOC Answer: Building will be designed per code and include adequate insulation to protect from such events. Easy example of a good way to assure to mitigate would be for the design to include an exterior insulation system (outside the sheathing)
FSD/CSG Answer: This is always taken into consideration; it's part of the design
BOC Answer: CTE is still being discussed heavily and will most likely move from its existing location a couple more times through schematic design.
FSD/CSG Answer: It was noted that new greenhouses will be constructed to replace the existing greenhouses.
BOC Answer: The existing CTE is going to be repurposed for district storage and cannot be used for educational purposes in the new plan in order to comply with the ‘state match’ funding requirements. It may be able to be repurposed down the road back into educational use at some point, but not as part of this particular Bond.
FSD/CSG Answer: The timeline was not readily available of when the building might be repurposed.
BOC Answer: This was also a concern of the BOC. There will be further discussion regarding safety & security as the plan continues to develop. It will most likely alter positions a couple more times as it goes through schematic design.
FSD/CSG Answer: No other comments.
BOC Answer: Most of the existing programs in the PAC will stay in the PAC since most the spaces are adequate for the future needs, and there is not adequate funding in this Bond to provide space of equal or greater value in the new school
FSD/CSG Answer: No other comments.
BOC Answer: This area still needs to be further detailed and the site plan as it currently exists is deceiving. The BOC is not aware of any provisions in the bond for relocating bus parking. It is assumed that the grandstand and adjacent work will abut the current bus parking.
FSD/CSG Answer: No other comments.
BOC Answer: In short, no we have not received the educational specifications (ed specs) to review. Long Answer, the schematic site plan and the ed specs are a ‘chicken or egg’ situation. We have had multiple conversations around items and issues that will be included in the ed specs (adjacency, sizing, numeric program, safety, etc.), but the document itself is still in the process of being created as the district tries to work through the process with both staff and the design team. Now that we have a solidified idea of the campus layout, the ed specs should be able to be finalized prior to the schematic design. In our specific case, working with an occupied campus and a tight budget has driven the site plan/location as much as the ed specs.
FSD/CSG Answer: Ed specs will be completed prior to the end of the schematic design work.
NOTE: At the December 2019 meeting of the Ferndale School Board, a patron who spoke during the public comment period accused the District of not answering his questions from the previous month. He then proceeded to ask another series of rapid-fire questions. We would be happy to answer all of his questions in this venue. However, we need a written copy of them, or at least a slower oral recitation, in order to do so. Although we have contacted him twice since the December Board meeting to request the questions, he has yet to forward them to us. Hence, they are not reflected in this document.
Winter weather impacted the Ferndale School District for all five days during the week of January 15-17. On Monday and Tuesday, we had to delay the start of the school day; and on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, we had to cancel altogether.
When schools cancel for snow days and other un-anticipated events, it reduces the planned number of instructional days and hours in the school year. The State of Washington requires that school districts offer 1027 instructional hours and 180 days each school year. Although school districts can apply for a limited number of waiver days, the number of hours cannot be changed. Typically, our District waits until later in the winter weather season before applying for waiver days.
Because school was closed three days this month due to winter weather, we know for sure that we will run school on June 15 and 16. In addition, we may make up the third day on Wednesday, June 17. In 2019, we saw winter weather as late as March so we will wait to see what other weather comes our way before we announce a final revision to our school calendar.
On January 22, 2020, we honored Treaty Day across the Ferndale School District community.
On January 22, 1855, the United States of America entered into a solemn agreement with the Lummi Nation. On that day, representatives from these two independent sovereign nations came together in Mukilteo and made promises to one another about how their respective peoples would share the land and resources of this region -- land that had been the traditional homelands of the Lummi people for more than 150 generations. The agreement they signed is called the Point Elliott Treaty.
A sovereign nation refers to a group of people who live within a defined territory according to a defined system of government, and who are neither dependent on or subjected to any other power or state. A sovereign nation has the capacity to enter into binding agreements with other sovereign nations.
A treaty is a promise made to one another by two equal groups. It is a compact that defines the ways those two groups will live together in harmony. On January 22, 1855, both sides who signed the Point Elliot Treaty promised to live by it forever -- for all future generations.
Treaty Day is an important part of ALL of our history. It is not just a Lummi Nation event. Every one of us who lives in this region has benefited from the fact that the Lummi ancestors and our pioneer ancestors chose to come together in peace to determine a way that we could all share this beautiful land. As Washingtonians, we are all Treaty people. If it weren’t for treaties between the United States and the 29 sovereign nations within the Washington territories, we would not have become the state we are today.
For too long, our traditional history textbooks have ignored or downplayed this important aspect of our shared heritage. As Ferndale educators, we are committed to providing our students with a complete and accurate understanding of their history. That is why we have made the decision to honor Treaty Day. That is why we have worked together with Lummi tribal leaders to develop lessons we can use to teach our students the meaning of Treaty Day in every school within the Ferndale School District.
Our observance of Treaty Day does not constitute an additional paid holiday for any Ferndale staff member, nor will it result in a day less of instruction for our students. Students will still have the opportunity to attend 180 days of classes this school year (unless we apply for one waiver day for the three days we missed because of snow). Our observance of Treaty Day only means that January 22 will not be one of those days of classes.
A local education levy in Washington State pays for items that the State does not pay for. In Ferndale, that means salaries for teachers, para-educators, and counselors; classroom materials; technology; transportation; and extracurricular activities. We estimate that, starting in 2021, the levy will represent roughly 13% of the Ferndale School District’s budget.
A levy is a short-term local property tax passed by the voters of a school district. A local levy can be approved for up to four years. Currently, Ferndale voters are being asked to consider a four-year levy, which will include the years 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024.
All seven Whatcom County public school districts are asking voters for levy renewals in February 2020. Statewide, nearly all school districts rely on local levies for a portion of their budgets. Of the 295 districts in Washington, 145 of them are asking for levy renewals in February 2020.
A levy is like a magazine subscription. If you do not renew a magazine subscription, you stop getting the magazine. In the same way, if we do not renew our levy, the local levy funding runs out on December 31, 2020 -- which means all of the programs supported by the levy will lose their funding at that time.
The current levy, which was approved in February 2016, runs out at the end of the 2020 calendar year. The state designates the schedule for elections and the February date is the first opportunity in 2020 when we can ask voters to consider a levy renewal. It is also cost-effective, since we are sharing the election costs with all of the other school districts in Whatcom County, who are also running renewal levies on the February ballot.
A second reason we all choose to run our levies in February is to allow enough time to develop our budgets for the following school year. The law requires us to notify employees in the spring if we have any reason to believe we will not be able to renew their contracts due to budgetary constraints. Without the assurance that the levy funding -- which constitutes 13% of our budget -- will continue, the District will be forced to issue lay-off notices in April and May.
The Ferndale School Board made the decision regarding levy rate after they had thoroughly analyzed the District’s budgetary needs and the current overall education tax rate. The State limits the amount districts can ask for through the local levy process. We are asking voters to authorize the full amount permitted by the State, even though that amount is not as much as we need to maintain our current level of service.
A levy provides money to help the district fund day-to-day school programs and operations. It bridges the gap between State funding and the cost of current programs and helps pay for things like teacher salaries, classroom materials, transportation, and extracurricular activities.
By contrast, a bond pays for capital projects, mainly new construction and remodeling of existing buildings. The majority of the money from District’s 2019 bond will fund the construction of a new Ferndale High School facility.
This is not a new tax. It is a replacement levy. We have an existing levy that expires at the end of 2020. We are asking voters to renew it with a new levy that will run from 2021- 2024.
The State Legislature’s formula for basic education falls below the current levels of staffing and services provided by our School District. To make up the difference, the State requires districts to rely on local school levies. The Ferndale School District, like all of the other school districts in Whatcom County and almost all of the other districts in the State, require levies to maintain acceptable levels of staffing and services.
This is the Ferndale School District’s first occasion to re-new our levy after the Legislature’s McCleary funding decisions have gone into effect. Our last levy was approved by voters in 2016 and covered the years 2017-2020.
No. At the time that we ran the bond, the Legislature had set a cap of $1.50 per thousand maximum for local levies. The Legislature has since raised the cap to $2.50 because they determined that the $1.50 was not enough. School districts across the state were announcing they were going to be insolvent without an increase in revenue.
Although the 2016 levy approved by Ferndale voters would have allowed us to collect $2.50 per thousand in 2020, the Ferndale School Board chose a levy rate of $2.17 because it matched the total rate we projected for 2020 when we ran the bond. (The total rate is the combination of local levy, state levy, and bond rates.)
When we leased the lower portion of Mt. View, the new tenants worked with the District to upgrade the facility. When the walls were painted, the class pictures were taken down, packed up, and put into storage. We didn’t rehang them where they had been because we wanted to allow the new tenants to personalize the space. This question has caused us to consider other places the pictures might be displayed. We are committed to developing and implementing a plan by Summer 2020.
When this question was raised, we consulted the construction experts on our team for an answer. They provided a list of some of the major tasks that must be completed. Those tasks include:
- Architect Selection: Determining who will design the building takes time. The design team also includes engineers and other technical specialists.
- Approval of GC/CM alternate delivery method: Projects must receive special permission from the State by appearing before a panel of experts that only meets a few times per year.
- GC/CM Selection: Determining who will help us ensure we are designing a cost-effective “buildable” building takes time. Once approved for the GC/CM process, we had to select a general contractor to be part of the design team.
- Community Engagement: We committed to providing opportunities for public, staff, and students to provide input. Since this building will be a centerpiece of our community for the next several decades, it is important to make sure the design reflects the values of the community. We need to allow enough time to gather input from a variety of stakeholders.
- Educational Specifications: Determining what kinds of programs the new school will support, how many classrooms and teaching spaces it will contain, what size those spaces should be, and what types of support spaces are needed takes time. The Ed Specs document provides the basic details that guide the design of the new school. High schools are very complex public buildings. They house a high volume of people and must function for their varied intended purposes.
- Site Investigations: Before beginning construction, we need to understand existing conditions on the site. Acquiring such understanding requires such things as topographic and boundary surveys, environmental investigations, soil conditions, utility locations, and so on. There are a lot of things under the ground on our FHS campus. It is an important cost containment matter and a critical design component to know what those things are. This knowledge also informs the type of foundation work that needs to done. All of this takes time.
- Site Layout: Determining where on the site the new school will be constructed takes time. The site we choose has huge implications that will impact both construction costs and the day-to-day use of the facility.
- State Funding Process: Receiving School Construction Assistance Program (SCAP) funds requires following a 12-step process. We are anticipating approximately $20 million in state assistance for this project, but the process of applying for these dollars takes time.
- Design: The design process encompasses three phases (schematic, design development, and construction drawings) and typically takes one to two years to complete for a new high school.
- Permitting: Permits must be obtained from several jurisdictions, including the City of Ferndale. On such a large complicated process, permitting and plan review are time-consuming processes.
Once all of these design tasks have been completed – roughly two years after the passage of the bond – we will be ready to “break ground” in the Summer of 2021. For a new high school of this size and complexity, construction normally takes two to three years. We are anticipating two years for the construction phase, which means the new school will be ready for students and staff in the Fall of 2023.
We are sensitive to what feels like a long timeline, but our priority is to create a new Ferndale High School that will serve multiple generations of future Ferndale students. We are excited about this opportunity and promise to deliver a product that we can all be proud of.
The metal sculpture was created by FHS graduate, Sara O’Connor, and her husband. Members of the high school leadership class connected with Ms. O’Connor about housing the heart at the high school because of its powerful symbolism. They saw it as a timely and beautiful reminder of our center in the Ferndale School District. Our heart -- our center -- is our love for our community of students, staff, and families.
FHS leadership students used the heart sculpture to inspire dozens of large paper hearts they have posted throughout their school, each with a inspirational message about the power of positive thinking, caring relationships, and love.
Right now, the heart sculpture is on loan to the high school by the artist, although there has been some talk about trying to purchase it to become a permanent feature of the campus.
Thanks to the efforts of Bellingham/Whatcom County Fire Fighters IAF Local 106, every student at Central Elementary School received a new winter coat on Friday, December 6. Operation Warm is an initiative that facilitates fundraising by local organizations to put winter coats on elementary children. Principal Francik was approached recently by Bellingham Fire Fighters, who let him know that Central had been selected as one of the recipients of this winter giving program. A week or so before the big event, volunteers came into Central’s classrooms to assess each child’s size. Then on giveaway day, every child received a coat that was just right -- and also a chance to meet some real firemen and get an up-close look at a firetruck. Rather than single out certain students, Operation Warm gives coats to ALL students, each with a letter addressed to parents in the pocket explaining the program and letting them know where they can donate the coat if it isn’t needed.
The Whatcom County Annual Tax Book contains this information. It is the statement of assessed valuations, tax rates, and taxes levied within the various taxing districts of Whatcom County, and it is published annually. Appropriately, it is also known as the Annual Tax Book. It can be found on the Whatcom County Assessor’s webpage, which you can access at this link:
The school district is limited in its levy collections to either $2.50 per thousand of assessed value or $2,500 per student FTE, whichever is less. If the assessed value of the community goes up, we may qualify under the $2,500 per pupil criteria, which should result in a tax rate lower than $2.50 per thousand.
According to the Whatcom County Assessor’s Office, there was a large tax dispute held in abeyance in 2018. Petro Gas, a sizeable corporate property owner in our District, contested their property value. The dispute was eventually settled, and Petro Gas has since paid their tax bill, which had the effect of lowering our tax rate for 2019 since the County deducts retro payments from the current year’s collection. In tax year 2019 Ferndale School District levied the $1.50 rate permitted under State statute, and the County adjusted it down to $1.45 as a result of the retro tax payment.
A bond is a long-term investment that authorizes the district to purchase land or build a building. (Think of it like a mortgage.) A levy, on the other-hand, is more like a utility bill. A levy pays for operating expenses that the State of Washington does not pay for. If a levy is not renewed the funding goes away entirely. (Think of it like an electric bill; if you don’t pay the bill, the lights will go out.)
If the levy does not pass, the District will be forced to plan for cutting programs -- and programs equate to people. Over 80% of the District’s budget pays for employees. Although the District receives funding from the State, it is not enough to cover the true costs of the educational programs we offer.
Every district in Whatcom County is facing the same challenge and will be asking their voters to renew levies in February. In Ferndale, our levy represents 13% of our entire budget, which means that we will be looking at efficiencies and cuts we can make throughout the organization.
This is a good question and something legislators and educators have struggled with for years. Most people have probably heard of the McCleary decision. In 2007, the McCleary family brought a lawsuit against the State of Washington for not following our State Constitution, which declares funding education to be the State’s “paramount duty.” The lawsuit claimed that, by leaving districts to rely so heavily on local levies, the State was not truly meeting its obligation as defined by the Constitution. In 2012, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in favor of the McClearys. Over the course of the next five years, the State Legislature struggled to figure out how to meet the requirements of the lawsuit. In 2017, they passed legislation that included a complicated switch of local and state levy taxes, and they declared their obligation met. The problem is that the fix did not add a lot of new money to the system. School funding just comes from different sources now. The cost of providing education has gone up every year, without enough new money to cover the expenses.
Whenever an incident of racism or hate speech is brought to our attention we take it seriously. When the KKK graffiti was brought to our attention on November 6, we sent out the following message to our Ferndale School District community the next day:
I am reaching you directly to share a statement that we provided to the Bellingham Herald this afternoon:
“Ferndale High School administrators were made aware of a message that was written on a Ferndale High School classroom whiteboard on November 6th. The message included the letters, “KKK,” and appeared in a shared classroom used by a teacher from the Lummi Nation. The message was immediately investigated and the person responsible has been identified. The Ferndale School District condemns hate speech in all forms and reminds students that there is absolutely no tolerance for this behavior. The District has counselors available to support staff and students impacted.”
On behalf of the Ferndale School District Administration and the entire Ferndale School Board, I condemn the sentiment behind what was written on the board and commit to you that there is no room for hate in any form in Ferndale.
Please reach me directly if you have questions or need to talk about this or other incidents of concern in our schools.
Since making this initial statement, we have had conversations with a number of District and community leaders (including several of our colleagues from the Lummi Nation), and we planned and implemented a public response on November 25. At an event held at Ferndale High School, we dedicated a large metal heart sculpture that says #NOHATE, and used the occasion to announce several next steps. These steps will include the following:
- We are recommitting to strong expectations from the School Board and the Superintendent that racial discrimination, harassment, and hate will be named when they occur and will be addressed directly.
- We will be providing training for students on what our expectations entail and training for staff on how to respond when our expectations are not met.
- The School Board and Superintendent will begin work on a specific Equity, Race, and Inclusion Policy. (When they adopted our current set of governance policies three years ago, they made a conscious effort to weave equity throughout each policy to make sure it impacts every aspect of our organization. At that time, they believed doing so would be the best way to ensure equity. Today, they understand we may be able to make a stronger statement by lifting equity up in a separate policy.)
- We will convene a Student Advisory Committee to be more intentional about hearing student voices as we continue with this work. (Twice this fall we have already held listening sessions with groups of high school students, and both experiences have yielded extremely valuable insights. We want to make this a regular part of our process.)
Deferred maintenance in general is the practice of postponing maintenance activities -- such as parking lot repairs or replacement of boilers -- in order to save costs, meet budget funding levels, or realign available dollars. Deferred roof maintenance, in this context, refers to the District’s continuing to patch and repair roofs to stop leaks past the time when they would be due for major renovation or replacement. The money the District did not spend on rebuilding roofs was used to maintain staffing levels and continue programs for students during the economic downturn.
The posters were purchased with School District General Fund dollars to support our new FerndaleCARES initiative. The posters cost $.69 each.
Course offerings are always determined by student interest and enrollment. While we do not have a specific cut-off for the number of students required to run a course, we generally say 18-20 students constitute the minimum number for us to run a class.
Over the past couple of years, we have struggled to maintain that number for AP US History. Last year we began the year with just over 20 students, but after a couple of weeks we were down to only 12 students. We did, however, continue to run the course with 12 students -- even though doing so put a strain on the rest of our US History courses. Because we have a finite number of teaching sections, running one small section means other sections must be bigger.
This year we did not have sufficient student interest to run an AP US History course. However, we did run an Honors US History course this year. Students enrolled in this Honors class are eligible to take the AP US History exam, and our teacher is providing support for those interested in doing so.
It is our intention to offer AP US History as an option students can select for next year. Depending on interest/sign-ups, we will run an AP US History in 2020-2021, or we will once again run an Honors US History course.
Yes. The plans include some additional fencing and the improvement of campus lighting.
Through the investigation, we discovered that we had been informed about the student’s prior threat (a threat that was not made against FHS) before he enrolled at FHS. Since the investigation, we have put in place processes to ensure that any future notifications of this sort are officially communicated to the right people and that those people take all of the appropriate steps to ensure our safety procedures are followed.
The decision regarding the location of the new Ferndale High School has not been finalized. Although $112 million sounds like a huge sum of money, our budget for the new high school is actually at the low end of what other school districts in our region have spent per square foot of construction. We recognize it is imperative that we deliver what was promised for the dollars we have available, and we will. However, as we complete the numeric program (which indicates how many square feet will be allocated to each part of the building) and determine the building site (where the new structure will be located on the campus), we are working hard to make the very most cost-effective choices while still fulfilling our needs and promises. As you can imagine, this process involves compromises. We started dreaming big, and now we are having to figure out how to tailor our dreams to fit an affordable reality. In this process, we are realizing the great value of having our Cornerstone Contractor as part of the design team, which the GC/CM (General Contractor/Construction Manager) model allows us to do.
In short, a final site plan has not been determined. We will make site decisions based on many factors, including cost.
Yes. The Transpo Group has surveyed and studied the current site and measured both traffic flow and volume. Their input will help influence our decision about the location of the new building. They will also be involved in the routing of the traffic once the location of the new building has been determined.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has conducted preliminary seismic assessments of several hundred school buildings across the state. At this point in time, there is no funding available for retrofits on those building. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is requesting funding for fifteen full engineering studies as part of the 2021-23 biennial budget. But, even for the buildings selected to undergo the full study, there is no State funding available to do the retrofit. If State funding does become available, the projects will be prioritized and only the seismic retrofit part of the selected projects will be funded. All other costs for renovating the buildings will need to come from another source.
Since the 1938 building at North Bellingham is in need of considerably more work than just a seismic upgrade, we would need significant local funds to make the building usable, even if we were to receive State funding. We will not have such funds without passing another Bond or a Capital Projects Levy. We will, however, keep our options open -- especially if some funding does become available from the State.
A levy provides money to help the district fund day-to-day school programs and operations. It bridges the gap between State funding and the cost of current programs and pays for things like teachers, classroom materials, transportation, and extracurricular activities.
By contrast, a Bond pays for capital projects, mainly new construction and remodeling of existing buildings. The majority of the money from the 2019 Bond will fund the construction of a new Ferndale High School facility.
The State Legislature’s formula for basic education falls below the current levels of staffing and services provided by our school district. To make up the difference, the Ferndale School District, like all of the other school districts in Whatcom County and many of the other districts in the state, will be submitting levies to voters in 2020 in an effort to maintain acceptable levels of staffing and services.
The current Levy, which was approved in February 2016, runs out at the end of the 2020 calendar year. The Ferndale School Board expects to ask voters to consider a Levy renewal in February 2020 to cover the next four years, 2021 through 2024. Ballots will be due February 11, 2020.
In 2017, the State passed legislation requiring school districts to move from private health insurance carriers to a State-run School Employees Benefits Board (SEBB) program for all employees. As part of the requirements of SEBB, more District employees will receive full benefits. We estimate the District’s share of the cost of these benefits will be an additional $3 million per year.
In Ferndale, we acknowledge that the Legislature’s “McCleary fix” did not actually fix educational funding in the State. However, we did not agree that raising the Levy Lid was the best way to solve the funding problem. Therefore, our Board published an open letter in March 2019 asking the Legislature to consider other solutions. They told the Legislature that they opposed the Levy Lid solution for two reasons.
First, in Ferndale, we proposed and passed a capital projects bond based on the new tax structure the Legislature put in place. We made good faith tax projections to our citizen owners based upon commitments made to us by our representatives in Olympia. If the Legislature were to come back and tell us we have to raise more taxes at the local level to maintain our programs and staff (which is exactly what they did), they would be breaking their commitment to us.
Second, while raising the Levy Lid was an expedient solution, and it will undoubtedly work in some districts that are bigger and wealthier than ours, our Board is concerned that it creates more inequity in an already inequitable system, in which the quality of a child’s education is determined by where he or she happens to live.
In the end, despite our School Board’s protests, the Legislature opted to raise the Levy Lid and, as a result, put the burden for education funding back on local school taxpayers.
During a brainstorming session at a School Board meeting during the summer, the idea of writing a series of open letters about the Levy was proposed as a possible way to communicate about school funding. However, this idea did not become part of our Levy communication plan. The School Board and the School District Leadership Team decided other avenues for sharing information would be more effective, including a Levy website and a continually evolving set of Levy-related questions and answers.
October is Disability Awareness Month. This month of celebrating our differences gives us a wonderful opportunity to learn new things together. Our District Student Services Department provides school leaders with a variety of resources. Principals and Building Leadership Teams, in turn, plan activities appropriate to their student populations. For instance, our Skyline Elementary Team organized an assembly in honor of White Cane Awareness day, which happens on October 15th every year. The assembly provided an opportunity for students to learn about the white canes that are used by people with visual disabilities, including several students in our School District.
While our General Contractor partner -- Cornerstone -- is based in Bothell, Washington, the District expects that at least 70% of the work on our Ferndale High School project will be done by sub-contractors, so there will be lots of opportunity for local workers during the construction process.
We are grateful that our project in Ferndale attracted interest from general contractors all over the state! While all of the firms that applied were high quality, Cornerstone was selected because they have had the most experience with projects as large and complicated as ours and also with being part of the GC/CM (General Contractor/ Contract Management) process, which our district has adopted.
The Thomas Built bus recall will not affect the Ferndale School District. The District has two Thomas Built buses in service, but those buses are 2007 and 2010 models. The recall is for 2014-2020 models.
The exact location of the new high school facility has not yet been determined, as we are still in the process of completing various site investigations. We commit to publishing that information as soon as the decision has been made.
This is a great idea, and we will work to arrange an opportunity for our Design Advisory Committee to tour Lynden Middle School. The Committee has already had the opportunity to visit Meridian High School, Sehome High School, and Lake Stevens High School. Each of these visits provided a unique opportunity to see design decisions played out in local settings, and we are glad to offer an additional opportunity.
The Ferndale School District paid for the event. This was an important time for our staff to come together to commit to our shared vision for the coming school year. You may have heard (or read – here is our media release) that our vision includes a commitment to relationships. This is good news and we have received much positive feedback from those who attended.
If your student receives a textbook that seems to be beyond useful life, please contact your student’s teacher. New textbooks are adopted and purchased according to a replacement cycle developed by the Teaching & Learning Department. This year, for instance, we are researching new elementary language arts textbooks, which will cost several hundred thousand dollars to purchase once we have determined the best choice for Ferndale. If books are damaged or misplaced during the off-cycle, teachers can work with building administrators to order replacement books.
There are two main reasons that the Ferndale School District sends information to families about attendance.
First, we know that some absences are unavoidable due to health problems or other circumstances, However, we also know that when students miss too much class time, they can fall behind academically. Some people are surprised to learn that attendance has an impact on future success as early as kindergarten! We send the attendance letters to let parents and guardians know we care about their children and want to partner with them to make sure they have the best educational foundation possible. Regular attendance, when it can be achieved, is an important plank in that foundation.
Second, State law prescribes much of how we communicate to families about student absences. We are required to make contact with families if students are absent (excused/unexcused). These requirements are spelled out in the RCWs.
The Ferndale School Board partnered with local media outlets to publish three open letters over the course of the last year. Those letters were widely available. They have also been assembled and made available in the following location on the Ferndale School District website: https://www.ferndalesd.org/school-board/open-letters
Our enrollment in the Ferndale School District has actually been declining for 10 years despite the growth in local housing. The enrollments in our five elementary schools are not significantly larger than they were ten years ago, as shown below with the official data from the OSPI website. We closed Mt. View at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, but that’s also the time when we took a school’s worth of 6th grade students out of our elementary schools and moved them to our two middle schools. The chart below shows the enrollment trends:
* North Bellingham Elementary closed when Cascadia opened.
** 2013-2014 is the first year we did not operate Mt. View Elementary.
*** 2018-2019 enrollment numbers reflect building headcounts in June.
The other enrollment numbers are annual averages reported by OSPI. OSPI has not yet reported annual averages for 2018-2019.
Although our elementary schools aren’t bigger now than they were before we closed Mt. View, we have kept both the Mt. View and North Bellingham facilities in case we grow to the point that we need them as elementary schools again.
We are also building the high school for a capacity of 1600, even though we currently only have about 1200 students.
In regard to current class size, in order to work from a common definition of “overcrowding,” the district and the teachers’ union have worked together to determine class size targets at each grade level. When class sizes exceed those targets, we have also outlined in contract language the process for addressing the overage.
Elementary class targets are as follows:
- Kindergarten…20 students
- First Grade…23 students
- Second Grade...25 students
- Third Grade…25 students
- Fourth Grade…27 students
- Fifth Grade…27 students
Since student enrollment numbers change throughout the year as some students move in and others move out, we get a new report of our class sizes across the district on the 10th day of each month. At our last report for 2018-2019, we had 21 elementary classrooms over the targets out of a total of 107 elementary classrooms districtwide. They were as follows:
- 1 Kindergarten Classroom: at 21
- 3 First Grade Classrooms: one at 24, one at 25, and one at 26
- 3 Second Grade Classrooms: all at 26
- 6 Third Grade Classrooms: three at 26, two at 27, and one at 28
- 5 Fourth Grade Classrooms: two at 28, two at 29 and one at 30
- 3 Fifth Grade Classrooms: one at 28 and two at 30
As per our contract with teachers, when a classroom exceeds its target by one or two students, we increase the teacher’s pay. If the number grows larger than two over the target, the principal works with the teacher and district administrators to determine some kind of additional assistance. As outlined in the contract, such assistance might include adding planning time for the teacher, para-educator support in the classroom, or another teacher at that grade level. In some instances, remedies have also included closing enrollment at a particular school or even moving a student from one school to another when doing so works for the family.
We also have target numbers in our contract for secondary schools, and they work similarly. However, the secondary targets are more complicated and harder to capture in a simple chart, since teachers teach multiple classes, subjects, and grades.
While it is true that some districts across the State had to lay off staff this past spring to balance their budgets, the Ferndale School District is in good financial health and is NOT operating at a deficit. We did not lay off any staff. These facts can be verified by the independent audit performed by the Washington State Auditor at our most recent annual audit.
We shared that news here:
The Ferndale School District was recently rewarded with a credit upgrade which will have a positive impact on bond tax rates. This upgrade will save taxpayers money.
We shared that news here:
The Ferndale School Board agrees that levies are not ideal. When the Legislature’s first attempt to address the McCleary decision didn’t go far enough, they opted to raise the levy lid which, meant putting more of the burden for education funding back on local districts.
We asked the Legislature NOT to raise the levy lid in an open letter, which can be found here:
Levies pay for “enrichment.” In other words, they fund everything that the State of Washington does not pay for. The term “enrichment” refers to extracurricular and co-curricular programs like band, theater, and football. Levies also pay for “over-formula” staff. That is, staff in excess of the State’s “basic education” formula. In Ferndale, that includes some of our teachers and nearly two thirds of our employees who do not have teaching certificates -- for instance, the people who serve as our para-educators, administrative assistants, bus drivers, food service workers, security personnel, advisors, and coaches.
A bond and a levy are two very different things.
Bonds pay for buildings. In our case, the bond we passed in February 2019 will pay for a new Ferndale High School as well as other security and maintenance upgrades throughout the district. A bond is like a mortgage. When we pass a bond, we “borrow” enough money up front to do large capital projects and then taxpayers pay back that money over 20 years or so. Bonds cannot be used for general operating expenses. In our school district, bonds are rare. The previous one was passed in 2006.
Levies are for learning. They support the day-to-day operation of running a school district. Levy money is collected each year and used to create the school district’s budget for that particular year. In 2019-2020, for instance, levy dollars account for approximately 13% of our general expenses. Levies also expire every few years, if they are not replaced. That’s why school districts in Washington State have to put levies on the ballot every two-to-four years. Ferndale, like all of the other six school districts in Whatcom County, will need to ask voters to renew its levy in February 2020.
Again, bonds and levies are very different. The bond is like the mortgage we have on our house. It doesn’t pay for groceries or car insurance or medical expenses. Those everyday operating expenses have to come from different sources of income. In the school district, the levy is one of those sources.
In Ferndale, our levy will cover approximately 13% of our operating expenditures in 2019-2020.
No. While all Ferndale School District employees received annual raises, no one got a bond bonus.
No. The members of the City Council voted on this proposal at their August 5, 2019 meeting, and they decided not to move forward. You can find additional information here.
Ferndale Community Connections is our district’s homeschool support program, which we launched in April 2018. Operated on the North Bellingham campus, the program supports home learning by providing a menu of supplemental services from which families can choose. Such supplemental services include courses in core subjects (science, math, social studies, language arts) as well as electives, field trips, and social activities.
In partnership with families, our certificated staff develop a unique Written Student Learning Plan for each student enrolled in Ferndale Family Connections. The WSLP is updated monthly to reflect the student’s learning, interests, strengths, and challenges.
Ferndale Family Connections meets all Washington State requirements as an Alternative Learning Experience. It is available to any K-8 student living within the boundaries of the Ferndale School District. It is also open to students from other places who obtain the required release from their home district.
For more information about Ferndale Family Connections, contact Principal Mark Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-383-9289.
The first round of intra-district waivers (within the district) were processed in early spring, and each family who had submitted a waiver request by that time was informed whether it was approved or denied. Any waiver request received after March 2019 is now pending until the first week of August.
Nearly all waiver decisions are made on the basis of space available. Several of our schools are close to maximum capacity in all or almost all of their classrooms. (Maximum classroom capacity is a number defined in the district’s contract with teachers.) Since we do not move teachers from one school to another based on student transfers, we are limited in the number of waiver requests we can approve.
As the number of ELL students in our district continues to grow, we are working to improve the way we serve them, especially in light of our analysis of local data and our research into best practices from the field.
An overview of our ELL program for 2019-2020 includes the following features:
At the elementary level, our data indicates that K-2 ELL students are making significant progress and are often ready exit services by grade 3. Newcomers arriving in grades 4 and 5, on the other hand, struggle into middle school. To address elementary needs, we have added an ELL teacher who will be located at Eagleridge and will (a) provide direct instruction to ELL students in that school, and (b) support instruction provided by paraeducators at our other elementary schools.
At the middle level, we know language is best taught through content, and preparation for high school needs to be a major focus. A certificated teacher located at Horizon will support all students whose English language proficiency has been assessed at Level 1 and 2 (limited). In this magnet-type setting, the ELL teacher will be able to focus on GLAD (Guided Language Acquisition Design) strategies, as well as content-based instruction (CBI) for language acquisition. The goal is for students to learn English (both conversational and academic) well enough to thrive in high school with minimal language supports.
At the high school level, we have established a brand new newcomers center, where we will provide an intensive program to recently arrived students aimed at acclimating them to our country, state, community, and high school. At first, students will spend the majority of their day in the center focusing on learning conversational language and social norms. As soon as possible, they will be integrated into high school elective courses based on their language ability and interests.
We will also offer a sheltered model of support at the high school level for Level 2 and 3 students who have basic English language knowledge but need extra assistance acquiring academic vocabulary and content understanding. Teachers facilitating this model will receive professional development and coaching throughout the school year from Western Washington University staff. Students participating in this model will be clustered together in together in regular high school classes so that para-educator support can be efficiently provided to meet their needs.
Finally, students deemed ready to exit ELL services will continue to be monitored by our ELL coach, who will track their academic progress, attendance, discipline, and High School & Beyond Plans.
No. The Ferndale School District does not endorse any candidate for any political office, and the FFA acted in error.
On Saturday, July 27, when we learned that our FFA truck/float was displaying political campaign signs, we contacted the advisors to direct them to remove the signs, which they did before the parade began.
Subsequently, the superintendent talked to the CTE director and reminded him that, in our official capacities as employees of the school district or whenever we are using school district resources, we do NOT endorse any political candidate or campaign. While students are not subject to the same constraints as employees, they may not use district resources for political purposes either. The superintendent instructed the CTE director to reteach this principle to all of the members of his staff.
Once school has resumed in the fall, the superintendent will publish an email reminder to all district staff about the need for separation between the district and any political campaigning of a promotional nature. We will use this incident as an opportunity for learning, growth, and improvement of our operations.
Our pre-design consultants have been busy taking advantage of these summer months when the Ferndale High School campus is mainly unoccupied by students and teachers.
- Surveyors have been doing boundary and topographic survey work to determine the location of property lines and easements and to map on-site features such as buildings, utilities, driveways, and trees.
- GeoEngineers have been assessing the nature of the soil on the high school building site. They have explored the subsurface soil and groundwater conditions and tested borings and installation of ground water monitoring wells. This preliminary work is aimed at equipping architects with vital information they need to site the new high school building and design its foundations.
- Wetlands specialists have completed an initial reconnaissance report.
- Environmental engineers have completed an Environmental Site Assessment.
- Archaeological experts have begun required site investigations.
Most of these due diligence and preliminary site investigation activities should be wrapped up within the next 4-6 weeks.
GC/CM stands for General Contractor/Construction Management. It is an alternative approach to designing public buildings that is intended to create a more collaborative relationship between the district, the architect and the general contractor than is found in a traditional “design-bid-build” delivery method.
GC/CM allows the general contractor to participate as an adviser during the architects’ design process. This improves communication, because the general contractor can provide input on the availability and cost of suggested materials and perhaps offer cheaper alternatives. The GC/CM method will cost the school district a little more upfront for the general contractor's time, but in the long run the contractor’s suggestions about the affordability of different designs can save us significant dollars.
Using the GC/CM method requires special permission from the state. First, the district had to submit a 20-page application. Then on July 25, district officials had to make a presentation to the Construction Projects Review Advisory Board (CPARB) made up of about ten experts in the field. After the district’s presentation, the experts asked questions, took public comment, deliberated among themselves, and voted unanimously to approve our application.
During the district’s presentation, the superintendent told the CPARB: “We have a complex site and limited resources. We know that we are going to need to take extreme safety precautions as we move forward with building a new FHS while students are occupying the old FHS on the same campus. We also know that we are going to need to be exceptionally frugal and diligent about safeguarding every penny for this project. The GC/CM process will help us do both of these things.”
Following the unanimous approval of the district’s application by CPARB, Joe Lupo, a construction expert and community volunteer said, “This is the right way to go here in Ferndale. We need to make sure that we manage risk and get our construction team selected and working together from the very beginning. I am a big advocate for this process, and am glad to see this result.”
Since the bond passed on February 12, 2019, the district has published 21 weekly bond updates. The purpose of these updates is to provide all members of the community with regular information about what we are doing to fulfill the promises of the Capital Projects Bond. The updates are published and archived on the district website. If you want to subscribe so a new edition shows up every Friday in your email box, please do so here.
We are moving one additional EBD classroom to the high school next year to accommodate additional students at that level. While we are maintaining our EBD program at the middle level, the overall number of EBD middle school students is decreasing. Therefore, we are combining the two middle school programs at Horizon, where most of them currently attend. A great deal of discussion occurred between principals, teachers, and district office administrators before these decisions were made. Everyone concerned was focused on making the best possible use of resources to serve our students.
The decision to move staff was based on an analysis of the strengths of our current employees and matching them to the needs at each school. The staffing changes we are making are aimed at providing the best possible support to all our students, grades K-12, by putting staff members in places where they can utilize their strengths.
Issues related to dating violence, domestic violence, sexual harassment, stalking and sexual assault are not ones we have been ignoring in the Ferndale School District for the past decade. In 2011, we became one of nine school districts in the nation to receive a fairly sizable grant from the US Department of Justice/Office on Violence Against Women to work on preventing sexual harassment and assault and promoting healthy relationships. At the end of the initial four-year grant period, we were the only one of the nine original grantees to receive a second round of funding -- because of our commitment to the work and the outcomes we had achieved.
Some of those outcomes include:
- Development and adoption of policy language related to healthy relationships and prevention of sexual assault.
- Development of a non-negotiable protocol that we expect all staff to follow when they receive a report of sexual assault.
- An annual requirement that all staff review and sign off on the protocol.
- More in-depth training for counselors, administrators, and other staff most likely to receive reports.
- The formation of the Ferndale Community Coalition (FCC), which is a group of school staff and community service providers who share the common goal of raising healthy youth and who meet monthly to collaborate around this goal.
- Agreements with representatives of several FCC members (like DVSAS) to provide their services to students on our school campuses -- services that include lessons on healthy relationships in middle school and counseling support at the high school.
- The chartering of student action groups at all four secondary schools.
- Support for these student action groups to initiate social norming campaigns with their peers.
- Two youth-led conferences for students from across the county; the first in 2015 called Our Gender Revolution: Promoting healthy relationships and ending violence; the second this past spring called The Big Consent Event.
Although we have been working on these issues, we have recognized our efforts have been insufficient. Therefore, during the past month we have committed to redoubling our efforts.
These are some of the actions we have taken:
- We contacted our partners at DVSAS, the Domestic Violence Commission, and the Police Department to engage them in doubling down on our efforts.
- On May 20, we hosted a Facebook Live program focused on this topic -- with FHS Principal Jeremy Vincent, FHS Counselor Aimee Bachmeier, DVSAS Executive Director Karen Burke, and myself.
- On May 22, we sent our health teacher, Peter Finstuen, and our head football coach, Jamie Plenkovich, to a three-day training in Texas on these issues.
- On June 11, we put on an assembly for all FHS students to talk very directly about laws, definitions, my expectations for District staff, resources, and ways students can seek support. Both a police officer and a counselor from DVSAS were part of the program.
- I have met with our head of counseling for the school district to talk about making healthy relationships a culture of consent main focus areas for all of our K-12 counselors’ work during the upcoming year.
- We have talked to students about starting a new action group in the fall, a plan which one of the students who participated in the assembly announced to the entire student body with an invitation to join “the movement.”
- We have committed to implementing a sports-based training program with some of our coaches for the coming school year, using the Coaching Boys Into Men and Athletes as Leaders curricula.
- Our HR Department and district administrators are continuing to do what we have always done when we get a report of a sexual assault, an illegal intimate relationship, and/or failure by a staff member to fulfill his/her duties as a mandatory reporter: We are investigating and taking corrective action as appropriate.
Moody’s Investors Services is one of the major companies that determines credit ratings for school districts. In preparation for selling the first batch of bonds, Ferndale’s Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, with the help of financial and legal advisors from DA Davidson and K&L Gates, submitted a report on our district and participated in an interview with two rating analysts from Moody’s. On June 6, we learned that the results of our efforts were very positive. We were upgraded from an AA3 status to an AA2 status. Our financial advisor from DA Davidson told us we “are in rare company being upgraded.” Moody’s shared their rationale for the upgrade, which included:
- Notably strong reserves and liquidity;
- A growing and diversifying local economy; and
- Strong management and budgeting.
While a better credit rating does not generate additional money for the District, it is a huge benefit to the community because it translates into lower bond interest rates. Saving money for taxpayers without sacrificing the quality of our educational system is always a good thing.
During 2018-2019, we relocated several programs onto the North Bellingham campus (like all of our Developmental Pre-School classes), and we also started several new programs at the site (like our homeschool support program, called Ferndale Family Connections, and four classes of early kindergarten, called Jump Start). Although we had support staff on the campus, each of these programs answered to a different administrator -- a situation which was not conducive to a coordinated, collaborative work environment. After hearing concerns from staff, we decided we needed to make a change.
Mark Hall, who has served for the past five years as Executive Director of Teaching & Learning for elementary education, will be voluntarily stepping down from his role on the Executive Team to become principal of all programs on the North Bellingham campus beginning July 1, 2019. His office will be located at North Bellingham, so that he can be there all the time -- except when he is attending a District meeting or on Wednesday afternoons when he is visiting Beach Elementary on Lummi Island, where he also serves as principal.
This consolidation under one leader feels like a giant step in the right direction for our North Bellingham Learning Center, even though it means some of the non-administrative support staff who assisted with managing programs this past year have been assigned to different roles next year.
The short answer is that the District cannot go over budget. We have a hard cap on delivering this project within budget because there is not additional money available. If budget becomes a problem, scope will be modified to make sure we are able to deliver this project for the price that we promised.
One way that the District will set the project up for success is by choosing a general contractor who will partner with our architect to make sure that we are using target value design and that we include appropriate contingencies for design and construction as move through the process.
We have set a timeline for the Ferndale High School bond project that is realistic in terms of final completion with a heavy focus on capturing our community’s vision for this project. We are sensitive to the fact that this is a once in a lifetime project and we want the end result to truly reflect the needs and desires of this community.
If we can finish the project sooner, we will.
As a reminder, here is the general timeline we are working towards currently: FHS Preliminary Schedule
This process is multi-layered.
First, honoring the unique cultures of our community, students and staff is a priority for us. That is part of the reason we are putting so much effort into the pre-design portion of the project. The way that we discover how best to honor culture is by listening to our community and to leaders in our community who can provide good guidance.
Second, all capital projects receiving State funding must consider how the proposed project may impact significant cultural and historic places, and must work with the Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation and local tribes to evaluate any impacts. Since the Old Main building is over 45-years old, we will be required to complete a Historic Property Inventory (HPI). Drayton will coordinate with the Lummi Nation, prepare the HPI and cultural resource survey and will complete the forms required by the State.
Teachers are absolutely not required to purchase their own supplies. The Ferndale School District provides all the supplies required to deliver quality instruction to students. We provide supplies for all of the buildings, classrooms, and elementary students in the district. At the middle and high schools, we provide student supplies for all students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. In addition, each classroom teacher receives $100.00 annually for classroom supplies that are above and beyond the supplies provided by the district. Each district department has annual budgets for curriculum support and other classroom needs as well. These budgets can be used throughout the year in partnership with the building administrator.
Our law enforcement agencies play a key role in helping us keep students safe. When we have reports of sexual assault or violence against students, our law enforcement partners work with students and families to investigate. Because of confidentiality, the police do not share details of the investigation with us.
We agree. One of our core values is safety. We encourage students to share concerns about bullying or assault with a trusted adult at school. We encourage families to work directly with school administrators to develop safety plans for their students. Once those plans have been developed, we encourage families to help reinforce the elements of the plan and to notify administrators if the plans are not working. Please reach out to us if we can provide more information.
School employees are mandatory reporters. We have established criteria for when a report is filed. The criteria include ages of students involved and the nature of the incident reported. Because school employees are mandatory reporters, if a minor student reports an assault or abuse of some kind, it must be reported to CPS and/or law enforcement. It is our protocol that staff work with counselors to facilitate this process. It is not solely the burden of the student to make a report to the police. However, to move the process forward, the student must choose to participate with law enforcement. If the situation involves a family member, we work with CPS. If the situation involves someone outside the family, we contact law enforcement.
The answer to this question will be YES beginning July 1, 2019, which is the date when a principal’s new contract year begins. Paying for a planning principal from bond funds is standard practice. A school construction project includes dollars for personnel to oversee the work.
Our intention when the new high school is built is to return to previous staffing levels. The new assistant principal may still have a job in the District, because we generally have openings due to attrition every year. But the additional staffing we are adding beginning July 1, 2019 and running through the duration of the design and construction of the new facility is directly tied to the bond budget.
Yes, school board meetings, including regular and special meetings, are all open to the public and anyone may attend.
The change to the Horizon lunch menu was temporary. The lunch options returned to normal starting the week of May 20. We made the adjustment to determine if efficiencies were possible. We also wanted to see if offering one complete meal that “scratch cooked” (i.e. turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy) would lead to more kids eating lunch. Horizon was selected for the test because their kitchen facility is such that they can do full production on site.
The Design Advisory Committee will be comprised of a broad-based group of up to 25 members representing various District stakeholders. The Committee will be charged with (1) researching best practices for high school facilities; (2) soliciting community input; (3) sharing their own expertise; and (4) reviewing and providing feedback on design ideas. Anyone with interest is encouraged to complete an application and submit by July 31. You can access the application here.
District administrators have been working with bond counsel to do all of the preliminary work required to sell bonds. The plan is for the District to begin selling bonds on June 19. The initial sale will total approximately $41 million.
Commencement will be held on Saturday, June 8, at Civic Field in Bellingham. We encourage members of our community to attend and help celebrate our wonderful graduating seniors. For additional details regarding Commencement and other related events, please see: https://www.ferndalesd.org/ferndalehigh/class-of-2019-graduation-information
The Ferndale School District added an Assistant Principal to support current FHS administrators as work begins to build a new Ferndale High School. Conducting a careful process that involves gathering input from many staff and community members will be time-consuming. By adding an additional administrator, the District hopes to maintain current levels of service at the high school while the design and construction of the new facility is occurring.
School bond process updates are sent weekly and posted at:
The District does not have its own summer childcare program in the way community organizations offer such programs However, it does coordinate with organizations like the Boys & Girls Club and YMCA.
Ferndale School District Family Community Coordinator Rachel Bowlden can provide details and assist with any childcare questions you may have. She can be reached at 360-383-9660 or email@example.com.
No. The District recently announced financial sustainability for staff and programs through the 2019-2020 school year because of reserve funds built in advance for this purpose. The question of financial sustainability is one that every school district in the state is struggling to answer, as education funding in Washington is highly uncertain right now. In Ferndale, we have planned for this period of uncertainty for the last few years by building reserves that will get us through this coming year. The planning we did in advance will allow us to commit to no staff layoffs this year.
For more information about the current budget situation and a recent audit of the Ferndale School District, see here.
In a recent public letter, the Ferndale School District Board of Directors came out strongly against idea of raising the levy lid. The Board wrote:
Some large urban districts are arguing that the easiest path to sustainability is to increase the amount of taxes school districts can ask for locally. In other words, “to raise the levy lid” back to where it was before the Washington State Legislature changed education funding as the result the McCleary lawsuit, which determined the State had not been meeting its constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education.
We do not agree that raising the local levy lid is a good idea.
The path of least resistance is not usually the way to lasting long-term solutions. To resolve the McCleary decision, the Legislature “swapped” state and local education-related taxes – increasing the state tax and lowering the local tax. They took the former local levy dollars as state money and then returned them to the districts as state funding. In 2018, education-related taxes went up during this transition year. The “new” state tax went into effect and the “old” local tax hadn’t transitioned down yet. In 2019 the new lower capped local levy rate goes into effect and significantly reduces district’s local tax revenue.”
To read the full letter, please see here.
We want to know what you think about the Ferndale School Bond process and projects. Our public input tool, Thoughtexchange, makes it easy for you to provide input. The process is anonymous. To add your thoughts and ideas, please visit: https://my.thoughtexchange.com/#883630446/hub
The District has an informational website for all Bond information and updates. That information can be found here: www.weareferndale.org
We also publish Weekly Bond Updates via email, which are posted to our website and social media as well. You can subscribe and receive these updates directly in your email at: bit.ly/BondUpdatesSubscribe
The dates for the 2019-2020 school year, as well as the 2020-2021 school year, have been released as of April 23, 2019. However, it is good to remember that the dates we are publishing this spring are subject to change if we experience snow days or other weather-related delays and cancellations that require schedule modification.
Full calendars will be released soon!
A few key dates in the 2019-2020 school year include:
- September 4 = First Day of School for Students (September 2 = Labor Day)
- November 28-29 = Thanksgiving Break
- December 23-January 3 = Winter Break
- April 6-10 = Spring Break
- June 6 = Commencement
- June 12 = Last Day of School for Students
A few key dates in the 2020-2021 School Year:
- September 2 = First Day of School for Students (September 7 = Labor Day)
- November 26-27 = Thanksgiving Break
- December 21-January 1 = Winter Break
- April 5-9 = Spring Break
- June 12 = Commencement
- June 15 = Last Day of School for Students
Yes. We have six unions/professional associations in our District. Most Ferndale School District employees belong to one of the following: (1) FEA, (2) PSE, (3) FAAA, (4) SEIU, (5) Teamsters, or (6) Association of Ferndale Principals. Four of the six groups will be involved in contract negotiations this year. We have begun the negotiations process with PSE, SEIU, and Teamsters. We will be negotiating with the Association of Ferndale Principals later this spring or early this summer.
The new Ferndale High School has yet to be designed, but we do know that our new school will have a library. Students, staff, and community will help us build the best version of our new library space. We expect it will reflect the needs, desires, and input of our community and support today’s best educational practices.
We begin by clearing the sidewalks and main entryways into the schools. We work our way out from there. The primary goal is to provide safe access from the bus drop-offs and parking lots into the buildings.
Fortunately, we don’t get the volume of snow that we had this winter on a regular basis. But that also means we are not as well-equipped as folks in parts of the country where they experience a high volume of snow on a regular basis. Nor are we as well-practiced. With the equipment and manpower we have, we did the best job we could with snow removal this past winter. However, we also made notes about things we can improve upon next time it snows.
The district sponsors a number of extra-curricular and co-curricular programs that take students out of regular classes and sometimes come with a cost to families. We believe -- and many of our families believe -- that classroom learning is enhanced and enriched by experiences that extend beyond the classroom and the schoolhouse. However, we are also deeply aware of equity issues that arise when such extra opportunities create a financial burden for families. And we continually strive to strike a balance.
Earlier this month, the district hosted a three-day workshop put on by The Young Americans. The program was here for the first time three years ago, and it was wildly popular with over 200 students and their families. It consists of a troupe of 45 college-aged performers from around the country working with school-age children and youth from our community to teach them to sing, dance, and act. The workshop culminates in a big evening program featuring the traveling Young Americans performing side-by-side with our students. This time around, even more Ferndale students participated, and the reviews were all just as positive.
The issue for some families is the $59 workshop fee. Because we are sensitive to this issue, we only agreed to host the program if scholarships were available for families to request as part of the online sign-up process. No student was turned away because of an inability to afford the fee. With that said, I suspect some students didn’t even begin the registration process because of the cost. In the future, we will continue to seek better, most respectful ways of preventing fees and finances from providing barriers to student participation in enrichment activities. (Suggestions are always welcome.)
We want your input and ideas about bond projects and are asking the question, “What is most important to you as we move forward with bond projects?”
One of the tools we are using to gather that input is a tool called Thoughtexchange. You can use this tool to tell us your thoughts and priorities AND to express your level of agreement with the thoughts and priorities of other people. All input is anonymous.
We will publish reports periodically so that the community can see what the exchange process is showing us.
Please visit HERE to participate.
In addition to the Exchange, we want you to know that we take your direct input and communication very seriously and encourage you to reach out directly via phone or email if you prefer. A good email for this is firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (360) 383-9200.
While the length of construction projects varies between projects, a good estimate is three to four years. That means that from the time that design begins to the time that a new high school building opens is approximately three to four years. If we apply that timeline in Ferndale, that would put us in the year 2023.
The cost of removing the 1938 building will be fairly expensive (hundreds of thousands of dollars), since it will include the removal of hazardous materials.
The plan to remove the 1938 building is further complicated by the fact that we still need to maintain the boiler/mechanical room and the four classrooms adjacent to it that were built in 1968. Once the 38 building comes down, the former interior spaces of the boiler room and four classrooms will become exterior spaces that need to be enclosed.
This is all doable; and, when it is done, it will add a great deal of capacity and functionality to the North Bellingham Campus. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have funds to dedicate to the project.
We named David Rodriguez (current FHS Assistant Principal) as Co-Principal with Jeremy Vincent during the next 2+ years, beginning July 1, 2019. While we want Jeremy to stay connected with the FHS staff during the design and construction phase of the high school project, he will be taking on a number of new responsibilities and attending many additional meetings in his role as Planning Principal and member of the Executive Steering Committee. In his new role, David will be able to serve as the on-site principal, overseeing the day-to-day management of the building with the support of Assistant Principal Jen Rolie, CTE Director Edwin Elefson, Athletic Director Eric Tripp, and a new assistant principal we will be adding to backfill David’s position. Our HR Department has published a posting inviting interested candidates inside and outside the district to apply. That posting can be found HERE.
There are two major updates in this area:
- On March 20th, the Ferndale School Board and the Bond Oversight Committee met to discuss next steps. We published information about that meeting which can be found here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/news/1656340/ferndale-school-board-and-bond-oversight-committee-discuss-next-steps
- One March 26th, the Ferndale School Board voted to adopt a new policy that had the effect of officially authorizing the Bond Oversight Committee as an official advisory committee to the Board. The Board and the Oversight Committee will continue working together and plan to meet to discuss Committee bylaws and additional support that the Committee might need to begin work. We provided information in advance of the board meeting which can be found here: https://www.ferndalesd.org/news/1656340/ferndale-school-board-and-bond-oversight-committee-discuss-next-steps
We provide weekly updates to our Ferndale School District staff which are then sent externally through an opt-in email list. We post our updates on social media and to our website here: https://www.weareferndale.org/updates/
To opt into our weekly bond update, please see the following: http://eepurl.com/gkTrWv
The State has two separate minimum requirements regarding the length of the school year. One of the requirements is for a minimum number of days when school is held. The other requirement is for a minimum number of instructional hours. The school district must meet both requirements.
Under normal conditions, the State mandates that districts provide 180 days of school. Under unusual circumstances, the district can apply for a limited number of waiver days (up to three).
The State also requires a minimum number of instructional hours. We have to meet a district-wide average in grades 1-12 of 1027 hours per year. This minimum hour requirement cannot be waived, even if the number of school days is reduced. This means if we apply for waiver days, we will probably need to cancel some student early release days to make up the hours.
We are evaluating options now. We have decided to wait until the end of February to make a final decision so that we can (a) be fairly certain we won’t be faced with additional weather-related schedule changes; (b) get feedback from the School Board about various options at their meeting on February 26; and (c) check in with leaders of the unions who represent our impacted employees. Our community can expect a notice with more definitive information on Friday, March 1.
No. We intend to maintain the June 8 graduation date for FHS. We know families have already purchased airline tickets and made plans for celebrations. Changing the dates will disrupt such plans.
To maintain this graduation date, we will most likely need to hold classes for seniors on two (2) Saturdays this spring. We will announce the Saturday dates when we communicate the rest of our snow make-up plan.
That number -- $24,761 -- was the total amount spent during the 2017-2018 school year from the Capital Projects Fund, which is governed by a number of restrictions. During 2017-2018, we spent $434.94 on wetland mitigation monitoring as part of the Cascadia construction project. The rest was paid to Zervas Group Architects for pre-design work and bond planning.
We have way more than $3.7 million worth of work that needs to be done. The list of maintenance needs is far longer than what can be covered by the $4 million on the bond request combined with the $3.7 million in the Capital Projects Fund. If the bond passes, we will use these existing funds to work our way further down the list of necessary projects. If it fails, we will need to perform the critical work that is on the bond request.
In addition, not all of the $3.7 million currently in the Capital Projects Fund is available to address the projects on the bond list. For instance, $1 million of the $3.7 million is earmarked for Custer. It was part of the 2006 bond package, and it needs to be spent at that school. Approximately $120,000 of the remaining $2.7 million came from the impact fees paid by people who have built new homes in the district. These dollars need to be spent on projects that benefit the schools where the fees were generated.
We do have plans to address both of the issues at Vista. We have been awarded some money from FEMA to address the bus loop. However, we did not receive notice of the award until it was too late to do the work this year. Therefore, we are planning to have the asphalt repaired during the coming summer. The roof is part of the bond package. We know we need to make major roof repairs to ensure we don’t develop any secondary issues like mold.
Yes. Our district receives dollars from a federal government funding source called Impact Aid. In essence, the program pays the taxes for federal property that exists within the boundaries of the school district. All districts that contain military bases and/or Indian reservations get these funds. Through Impact Aid we receive equivalent revenue from the Lummi Nation, but we receive it through the federal government rather than local taxes.
Yes. Round trip transportation is provided between students’ homes and the North Bellingham Learning Center, where our four Jump Start Kindergarten classrooms are located.
We know sometimes it is more convenient for families to have their children transported to and from a daycare location rather than their homes. Whenever doing so is possible within the limits of our transportation resources, we accommodate those requests. Sometimes, however, we are unable to accommodate. Such was the case with a recent request to have Jump Start students picked up at a particular daycare where bus access is restricted. In all cases, we collaborate with families to try to figure out reasonable alternatives.
Our current football field is so fragile that we need to restrict its use in order to keep it viable for weekly football games and halftime shows in the fall. The football team doesn’t hold their daily practices in the stadium either. If they did, the field would be so muddy and torn up they couldn’t play there under the lights on Friday night. To accommodate band practices in the parking lot, the district has painted a football field on the asphalt.
Fortunately, when our new high school is built, it will include a stadium with all-weather turf, and many of these issues will be resolved.
The District invites the entire community to an event on March 9, 2:00-4:00 pm to celebrate the passage of our Ferndale School Bond and to get information about next steps. Members of the Ferndale School Board and the Community Bond Oversight Committee will be in attendance to answer questions.
In addition, as work begins, we will provide consistent and timely information on our website and through social media.
The School District is bound by law to inform voters about the school bond. We provide information to meet that obligation.
For printing and mailing to approximately 17,000 households our total was approximately $3800.
The bond will run for 20-22 years depending on market conditions at the time of the sale.
According to the Whatcom County Assessor, the total assessed value of real property within the Ferndale School District is $4,785,319,887. More information can be found here: http://www.whatcomcounty.us/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/14601
The Whatcom County Assessor works with taxpayers to facilitate discounts for senior citizens (low income) and disabled persons. For more information, call the Whatcom County Assessor’s Office at 360.778.5050.
The two elementary school buildings not currently being used as elementary schools are Mountain View and North Bellingham. Although neither building is currently used as an elementary school, both are being used for other purposes. North Bellingham is currently housing all of the District's Early Learning programs, our home school support program, and more. The Mountain View building is currently being leased to the Discovery School - a county-wide program. The lease arrangement brings in revenue and a partnership that requires that the tenant maintain the facility, thus saving District resources.
The School Board has decided not to sell the properties at this time because they are currently in use and because the District anticipates needing space for additional students in coming years. Additionally, it would be very difficult to purchase a comparable property in the future when we need it.
At some point in the future, we envision another elementary school on the North Bellingham site in a new building. We actually have blueprints. However, rebuilding North Bellingham did not make the top priority list with the 85 community members who spent five months studying all district facilities and coming up with the bond package that will be on the February 12 ballot (again).
The current California-style facility on the North Bellingham site was never ideal for our Pacific Northwest weather. In today’s world, where we have to be so much more concerned about safety and security, it is an even less desirable layout for a traditional elementary school.
The other issue at North Bellingham is that the wing built in 1938 has been “condemned,” or at least deemed unsafe to house students. We do use part of it for storage, but not for kids. The usable portion of North Bellingham can comfortably house 200-250 students – and we are using most of it.
This year, the programs housed at North Bellingham include the following:
Our new parent partnership (homeschool) support program. We realized two years ago we were the only district of the seven in Whatcom County that was not offering such a program. All six other districts not only had programs, but programs that were significantly growing – and some of their growth was due to Ferndale student transfers. If this was a service families wanted, we decided we needed to offer it. We started a small parent partnership last April (2018), and we now have about 30 students K-12 enrolled in the program.
Our developmental pre-school program. This is a compensatory special education program for 3- and 4-year-olds who are developmentally delayed. Prior to this year, we had four classrooms at four different elementary schools. Centralizing them all on the North Bellingham campus has (1) allowed pre-school teachers to collaborate and share resources; (2) allowed transportation to consolidate and make more efficient runs (since our preschoolers are on a different schedule than other elementary students); and (3) freed up one classroom in each of four elementary schools that can be used to meet new lower class size standards. (There are four classrooms of these students at North Bellingham.)
The Transitions program for Life Skills students, who are allowed, because of their special education status, to remain in school learning and practicing independent living skills until they are 21 years of age. (There are about a dozen of these students.)
Our Jump Start Kindergarten program, which will begin later this month and run through the end of the year. Jump Start during the school year is relatively new in Ferndale. We started the school year program last spring (2018). However, Bellingham has had the program in place for about five years. We will receive state funding to provide a semester of school readiness activities to students who will be going into kindergarten in the fall, but who have never had any pre-school experience. For several years, we have hosted a similar program for a shorter amount of time in the summer (without state funding) and the results have been very positive. The theory is that if we can close achievement gaps at a very young age, we will have to spend much less money trying to close them later. (We will have four classrooms of Jump Start at North Bellingham.)
Head Start. This is another pre-school program for low-income families run by the Opportunity Council. We rent two classrooms to OC, which helps set off some of our other costs.
Other. This past fall, while one of our local churches was under construction, we rented them a space (at a reasonable rate) to hold their preschool at North Bellingham until their new facility was completed.
At this time, this is how we are using the North Bellingham campus. By keeping the buildings occupied, we are able to protect this valuable asset better than if it were empty – and it is currently providing space for some important programs.
Some people ask why we don’t sell North Bellingham, but our School Board believes doing so would be short-sighted. Someday when the District needs the land for additional schools, such land may be much harder to come by.
Some people ask why we don’t tear down the 1938 condemned building. The reason is cost. The bid we got for taking it down in a way that meets all safety and environmental codes and disposing of the waste material was almost $1 million. We have so many other needs that have to take priority.
The District is renting part of Mountain View to Educational Service District (ESD) 189 for the Discovery program, which has been a very positive arrangement for the School District. The program paid for significant upgrades in the lower wing of that school – new flooring and paint, new cabinetry and countertops in some places, a number of repairs, etc. And Discovery has the added benefit of creating a small revenue stream into the District.
One future plan that will be accomplished by June of this year is to turn the Mt. View library into a meeting space, professional development area, or even a community rental, which we can accomplish with lots of elbow grease and a little bit of money. Since Mt. View closed, the library has been a storage space for all kinds of unwanted furniture and material. We’ve got most of it cleaned out, and we have a plan to get the rest of it taken care of soon. Another staff training space in the District – one that doesn’t impose on our school buildings, teachers, and students during the school day – is a major need for us, so we are excited to get this aspect of Mt. View operational.
We have also entered into negotiations with a local organization who wants to rent the upper wing of Mt. View from us to use it as a daycare facility. Like Discovery, this organization would pay for the necessary renovation and, once they are occupying it, also pay rent. If this negotiation turns into a concrete deal, the result will be good for the district and also provide a service to the community.
As with North Bellingham, we do not have a plan to sell the Mt. View site.
We have no plans for a second high school. This topic has come up fairly regularly as we have talked about a bond to build a new Ferndale High School. The Bond Task Force considered the possibility of two high schools briefly, but quickly dismissed it as a viable plan. Putting 1400 kids in two high schools is much more expensive than putting 1400 kids in one high school – because (1) Two of every space are needed and they all can’t necessarily be half as big; and (2) Overhead cost are doubled when hiring two principals, two football coaches, two office managers, etc. Since we are working to raise the money to fix one high school, getting taxpayers to agree to pay for two seems unlikely.
A large high school is much more cost effective. A large high school also provides students with more curricular options. You could not offer 5th-year world languages or ten different music offerings or a whole menu of CTE classes in a small high school. There wouldn’t be enough students to fill the classes. When people think about having two high schools in Ferndale, some may envision two mini Ferndale High Schools, both with winning football teams and celebrated marching bands and the best drama productions in the region. The reality is that two smaller schools would mean limited program options in each school.
Some people ask if we are going to run out of room at FHS soon. They are usually surprised to learn that our student enrollment in the Ferndale School District has not grown in ten years – despite all the growth in housing in our area. In fact, during the last ten years, our overall District enrollment has decreased eight of those ten years. One year it grew by about a dozen students and one year it grew by a couple of hundred. The high school currently serves about 1400 students. If we get to build a new facility, we will build it for 1600, with easy capacity for adding classroom space. We believe that will serve our community’s needs for quite some time.
The district purchased a 29-acre parcel of land over ten years ago. A 29-acre buildable plot could be big enough for an elementary school or possibly a middle school, but it is not large enough for a comprehensive high school with a gym and athletic facility. And the particular 29 acres we own contain a considerable-sized portion of unbuildable wetlands. We haven’t seriously talked about selling this parcel, for reasons mentioned above.
The Ferndale School District is audited annually by the Washington State Auditor. The school district is regulated by state and federal law, supervised by the Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction and is audited annually by the State Auditor’s Office (SAO). For more information about the process and the results of the school district audit last year, please see the following: https://www.ferndalesd.org/communications/blog/1614950/ferndale-school-district-earns-clean-results-in-financial-and-accountability-audits
All rental fees go towards the cost of operating the building. The School District runs rentals at a breakeven not as a revenue generating enterprise. So, the funds go towards paying utilities, employee costs, and a small amount towards equipment replacement if specialty equipment is used. Most of the rentals are by groups that serve our students. We very rarely rent to for profit-enterprises.
The cost of a new FHS is based on square footage and is comparable to other local school construction projects. Fortunately, we have many comparisons to work with as many school districts in Whatcom County have built high schools in recent years. The Ferndale School District worked with an architect to determine requirements for space and then projected a cost based on that requirement.
The reason our project may look more expensive than other local projects is that our building is much bigger. We have only one high school in Ferndale, and a new building will be designed to house 1600 students. Other high schools are much smaller. For the sake of comparison Blaine High School’s student count was 674 in 2017.
“Walk Zones” are determined by the State’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. OSPI has designated “One Mile Walk Zones” for all districts across Washington as part of the process for determining the transportation budgets they receive. That means districts do not receive funding for “basic” bus riders (meaning general education students, not students with special needs, students who are homeless, etc.) if they live within one mile of the school they attend. Walk zones for each school can be found on the Transportation page of the district website. Additional information and contact information for Student Transportation at OSPI can be found at http://www.k12.wa.us/transportation/
One additional note about the “Walk Zone” concept: In recent years, the method for calculating the walk zone changed and is now determined by “walking path” versus “as the crow flies,” which was the previous standard. This change added many new eligible bus riders.
Admission is charged for football, volleyball, basketball and wrestling events in the Ferndale School District. Ferndale School District high school students with valid ASB cards may attend games free of charge. Additionally, senior citizens may purchase an Annual Senior Gold Card for $5.00. Senior Gold Card holders receive free admission to all Ferndale School District home events including athletics, plays, concerts and any other program with charged admission.
For additional information: https://www.ferndalesd.org/athletics-activities/ticket-information
Community members may request the chance to rent the Ferndale Performing Arts Center. The space has been used during the past five years for:
- College and university presentations and special speakers
- Community dance recitals and performances
- Community music concerts
- Community safety forums
- Community teacher workshops
- Community theater group rehearsals and performances
- FSD middle school dramatic rehearsals and productions
- Eagle Scout projects – concerts, fundraisers, etc.
- National drama tour group workshops and performances
- Funerals and memorial services
- Graduations of local educational institutions
- Political informational forums
- Annual meetings of local businesses
- NWC athletic director conferences/trainings
NW youth leadership conferences
If the proposed bond is successful in February 2019, the Performing Arts Center will be refurbished, and the community will be able to continue renting and using the facility when it is not in use by the Ferndale School District.
The new school will be constructed on the same site as the existing Ferndale High School next to the old building. This will allow students to occupy the existing building until the new facility is ready for them.
The school was originally built in the 1930s and has had a series of upgrades and additions throughout the years. The last major renovation and addition was completed in the 1970s. Minor improvements (the addition of a new weight facility and some classroom conversions) were completed as part of the 2006 bond.
If the proposed bond projects come in “under-budget,” the Community Oversight Committee will review budget and make recommendations to the School Board for best use for the remaining funds. (NOTE: All of the funds will be used for facilities improvements at one of the district’s buildings. They cannot be used for textbooks or salary increases or other general fund expenditures.)
As with anything that is used and loved for years, Ferndale High School has reached a point beyond ability to repair. Current conditions affect and limit student learning.
Safety is also an ever-increasing concern. Ferndale High school has 80-100 different access doors, a situation that makes it virtually impossible to create a campus that meets today’s security standards.
We have stewarded the Ferndale High School Facility for many years, and we are now asking the community to help us build a new space that will provide a great start to every student’s future.
Prior to 2016, the School Board used to hear public comments at the beginning of their meetings only about items on the agenda, and then again at the end of the meetings about any topic of the speaker’s choosing. Dissatisfied with the way the public comment process was working, Board members devoted time at two different meetings in October 2015 and November 2015 to consider how they could improve their communication with stakeholders through the public comment process. To this end, they instituted several new practices in December 2015. These included:
- Allowing patrons to speak at the beginning of their meetings about any topics of their choosing, not only those topics reflected on the agenda, thereby eliminating the need for them to sit through an entire meeting to have their say.
- Removing the public comment period at the end of the meeting in favor of allowing Board members time to interact one-on-one with those audience members who were still present.
- Providing written responses, posted on the website at the end of each month, to questions and concerns received from stakeholders during the previous month, including those that were expressed as public comments at Board meetings.
- In addition to the forms available at Board meetings for stakeholders to leave written questions or comments for School Board members, providing a portal on the district website for such communication (originally called “Let’s Talk,” now called “The Listening Post”) In addition to The Listening Post, the board also established its own online form to receive comments and signups for folks to speak at meetings. It is located at https://www.ferndalesd.org/school-board/school-board-public-comment-form.
- Redesigning School Board study sessions to allow more interactive dialogue between the School Board and the public.
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.
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.
The Ferndale School Board will consider this option during the regularly scheduled School Board meeting on November 27. The answer to this question will be updated when the Board makes its final decision.
Yes. If the Board chooses to put the proposal on the ballot in February 2019, it will be the same proposal as was considered in November 2018.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
We did receive word about a student threat on October 22 and then another rumored threat on October 24. We took both of these threats very seriously and worked hand-in-hand with law enforcement to investigate. We also made sure to communicate as much information as possible throughout the process. We know that our community wants information as quickly as possible. That is why we created the following resource: https://www.ferndalesd.org/emergency-communications
We believe students are safe at school. The known threats made toward Ferndale High School were quickly acted upon and resolved by the Ferndale Police Department. The Ferndale School District treats every threat as a serious incident. We always involve the Police. We take every precaution to ensure the safety of our students and staff.
Ferndale Police were sent to Vista Middle School and Horizon Middle School on Wednesday, October 24, as a precaution. There were no known reported and verified threats specific to Vista or Horizon. The Police presence at the middle schools was a measure aimed to reassure students and staff.
When it comes to school safety, our community has told us that they don’t want a filter. They want information as soon as possible. We know providing timely information and regular updates goes a long way in helping staff, families, and our community feel safe at school. Ultimately, that is our goal. We want to teach our students to report threats. We want to encourage our parents to report threats. We want to support law enforcement as they investigate. And we want to let the community know what is happening with as much verified detail as we can share without compromising an ongoing investigation.
This is our protocol: Whenever we receive word of a threat, we work directly with our Ferndale Police Department Team to move the investigation and verify as many facts as possible early on, so that we can begin providing accurate updates and communication with staff, families, students, and community. We want the district to be the place people go to learn the facts.
We followed our protocol in dealing with the recent threats at the high school. We began communicating information as soon as it was verified.
When we talk about safety at school, we include social, emotional, and physical safety. When any of those are threatened, we want our students and families to have additional support.
If you or your student is looking for support, we want you to know the following:
Our school counselors are available at all times. We recently expanded the number of Ferndale School District Counselors. We have a four-person counseling team at Ferndale High School and a designated counselor based at each of the other schools in the district.
As always, administrators at each of our schools are available to talk with you and to connect you with resources. Please reach out if you or your student(s) are struggling.
- For parents who may want to talk with kids directly about their feelings around school safety, we offer the following article from the National Association of School Principals: http://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources/school-safety-and-crisis/talking-to-children-about-violence-tips-for-parents-and-teachers
- We will continue to make resources available as we collect them.
We are very pleased to share that we grew our counseling staff from six to eleven this year. A growing body of research confirms what we already know. We need to pay attention to the whole child. Children and youth can’t master academics effectively if they don’t have a set of foundational skills in self-management, decision-making, and relationship-building.
We recently shared a story about the increase in school counselors: https://www.ferndalesd.org/communications/blog/1616009/ferndale-school-counselors-grow-in-number-from-six-to-eleven
We have not published an official date for completion partly because there are so many contingencies with construction.
Our optimistic “unofficial” target is Fall 2021 if the bond passes and all goes as planned.
Members of the Bond Oversight Committee include:
- Riley Cornelsen
- Anya Milton
- Bo Smith
- Dan Cornelsen
- Adam Rustad
- Sandi McMillan
- Mark Harting
You can find additional information about the Oversight Committee here: https://www.weareferndale.org/committee/
CTE – which stands for Career & Technical Education – refers to all of the courses offered in our secondary schools that are specifically designed to prepare students for success after high school by helping them develop the skills, technical knowledge, academic rigor, and real-world experience for high-skill, high-demand, and highly successful careers. Ferndale is known for its excellent CTE programs.
Each CTE pathway (defined by the type of careers it supports) has a Program Advisory Committee made up of members representing business and industry, the District teaching staff, labor organizations, special populations, community, students, parents, and building or District administration. A majority of the members on each committee possesses a working knowledge of the skills and competencies required for the particular occupation(s) they represent, current needs of the labor market, and the kinds of coursework necessary to prepare future workers to meet these needs. As such, the Advisory Committees provide advice to educators about the design, development, delivery, evaluation, and continuous improvement of our Career & Technical Education programs.
The goals of Ferndale High School’s program-specific CTE Advisory Committees include the following:
- Review skill gap data for Whatcom County and the State of Washington to ensure alignment between community needs and CTE programs offered at FHS.
- Conduct and/or audit annual program evaluations.
- Identify and prioritize program gaps and needs.
- Maintain a five-year program improvement plan.
Stay up-to-date on State budget allocations for CTE programs and provide input into budgeting at the local level.
Anyone interested in serving on a CTE Advisory Committee should contact District CTE Director Edwin Elefson at email@example.com.
All district staff complete required online training on concussion protocol every year. Through this training, they are remined that any student who is observed or suspected of suffering a significant blow to the head may have sustained a concussion. They learn that symptoms of a concussion may appear immediately, may become evident in a few hours, or may evolve over a few days.
A district staff member who (a) observes a student hitting his or her head or (b) notices a student displaying signs of a concussion or (c) learns about a head injury from the student in question or someone else should have the student accompanied to the school nurse. If there is not a school nurse on duty, school personnel should contact the parent/guardian. Any student suspected of suffering a concussion will be removed from athletic activity and/or physical activities (e.g., PE class, recess) until an evaluation can be completed by a medical provider.
Students near Eagleridge and Horizon reported seeing an animal that resembled a cat or a cougar in recent weeks. The reports were investigated by school administrators who determined that the animal in question was actually a cat.
Yes. Wall calendars will be distributed through your student’s school this fall.
In the interim, our full District Calendar can be found here:
Our At-A-Glance calendar can be found here:
The District and FEA (teachers and other certificated staff) reached a tentative agreement with the District on August 28. FEA members ratified the new contract on August 30, and the Ferndale School District took a vote to approve it on September 20.
The District has not yet achieved a tentative agreement on a 2018-2019 contract with the principals. As with all other groups, the principals’ 2017-2018 contract will remain in place and operational until a new contract has been agreed upon.
The Homecoming Football Game is scheduled for Friday, October 12. The Golden Eagles will face off against the Marysville-Pillchuck Tomahawks. The Homecoming Dance is scheduled for the following evening, Saturday, October 13. Both events will occur on the Ferndale High School campus.
At some point early in making schedules for 2018-2019, Homecoming was recorded on an FHS draft calendar on October 5-6. After the league had finalized the 2018 football season and before the start of the new school year, the FHS administration changed Homecoming weekend to October 12-13. They did so for several reasons, which included (1) providing increased time for event planning and preparation, (2) maximizing gate revenue for the season, and (3) selecting the most suitable opponent for a Homecoming game.
When they made the change, the FHS administration was unaware that the FHS Marching Band had already scheduled themselves into an out-of-town competition on Saturday, October 13. Once they learned of this conflict, the FHS administration worked with the band director to cancel the October 13 competition and get the band into an alternative competition on October 6.
No. Overall, District enrollment is down a little from last year, which continues a decade-long gradual decline. Our total district enrollment on the “official count day” this year, which is the fourth day of school, was 4,454. That’s 36 fewer students than last year’s average total enrollment of 4,490.
Here is a picture of our District enrollment over time:
|Total District Enrollment||5,003||4,930||4,898||4,822||4,812||4,721||4,495*||4,520||4,487||4,490||4,454|
*2014 was the first year that the Lummi Nation School became a separate entity with the State, which accounts for the substantial enrollment drop in that year. Prior to 2014, the Ferndale School District’s reported enrollment numbers included the students at the Lummi Nation School. Since 2014, they have not.
Overall, our class sizes are good. Of our 92 elementary classrooms, 32 of them have 20 or fewer students. All kindergarten classes except one have 20 or fewer students; the one outlier has 21. At the larger end of elementary class sizes, we have 7 classrooms at 28, two classrooms at 29, and only one classroom district-wide at 30. Interestingly, four of the 10 largest elementary classrooms are at Central in the 3rd and 4th grades.*
*This information is based on enrollments on the fourth day of school. They may have gone slightly up or down since then.
Skyline Principal Bill Tipton requested a short-term medical leave, and, as a result, Mr. Bud Larson has agreed to serve as Interim Principal. Mr. Larson was a Ferndale teacher for 32 years, many of those years spent teaching at Skyline. Mr. Larson was also an elementary school principal in three different districts, including Ferndale, where his spent his last year in education as principal at Cascadia.
Students, staff, and families have welcomed Mr. Larson to the Skyline Team, and they are looking forward to the year ahead.
If you live within the Ferndale School District boundaries, you can vote on the upcoming school bond. The election date is November 6, 2018, and ballots will be mailed to you approximately two weeks prior to that date.
The Ferndale School District is larger than the City of Ferndale. It extends into the County and includes Lummi Island, Lummi Nation, Custer, and even areas of North Bellingham. For a full School District map, see here: https://campussuite-storage.s3.amazonaws.com/prod/1530651/06c11be8-7bab-11e7-bf32-124f7febbf4a/1651346/4475c622-befb-11e7-a404-0a1e98289924/file/School_Attendance_Area_Boundaries_Final.pdf
Community Bond Task Force Members met to review applications for the Bond Oversight Committee on Monday, September 24. They had a strong list of candidates to consider, and they worked hard to choose Oversight Committee members who could represent various aspects of the construction process. An announcement regarding their decisions will be made sometime during the week of September 24.
A Community Pep Rally is being planned at FHS on October 5, before the Golden Eagle Football home game, to introduce the Oversight Committee to the general public.
Beginning on Wednesday, August 29th, schedules for Ferndale High School students will be available through the Skyward online School Information System (SIS). All District secondary students and parents have access to Skyward.
A District negotiating team has been meeting with an FEA negotiating team for several months to develop the best possible new contract for Ferndale teachers. All of the changes in rules and funding formulas that came from the legislature in response to the McCleary decision have made the process particularly complex this year. We don’t want to rush something so important. However, we are hopeful we will have a settlement prior to the beginning of the new school year.
As soon as FHS Principal Jeremy Vincent found out that one of his teacher’s names was included in graffiti defacing the railroad bridge that runs through downtown Ferndale, he contacted Superintendent Linda Quinn, who joined him at FHS. They next reached out to the Ferndale Police Department, the City of Ferndale, and BNSF (who owns the railroad bridge). Mr. Vincent made personal contact with Mayor Jon Mutchler, who assisted in coordinating the graffiti removal from the BNSF bridge that same day. Mr. Vincent and Mrs. Quinn both called the teacher whose name had been used to offer support. Mr. Vincent also sent an email to his entire staff soliciting their help in identifying the perpetrator.
Decisions about adding new CTE programs – to expand the existing selection of Career & Technical Education classes offered at FHS -- have not yet been made. CTE Director Edwin Elefson says, “There are some exciting programs we could provide our students if we had more modern facilities. However, before we decide which programs to develop, we want to get lots of input from the members of our Community Advisory Committees and other local employers.” To start the process of getting input, Elefson hosted a tour of the current facilities on August 23. “We had 12-15 people join us representing a wide range of local businesses and agencies,” reported Superintendent Linda Quinn. “Edwin did a wonderful job of explaining our current CTE programs, sharing strengths and successes, and pointing out some of the limitations imposed by our facilities. We ended up in the Foods classroom in a discussion about where we go from here to help our kids become college and/or career ready.” Anyone interested in learning more about Ferndale’s CTE programs or joining one of the Advisory Committees should contact Mr. Elefson at Edwin.firstname.lastname@example.org.
An independent citizen group is coordinating the selection process for the Community Bond Oversight Committee. They are looking for people who are (a) Ferndale School District residents; (b) not FSD employees, vendors, contractors, or consultants; (c) not current City of Ferndale employees or consultants; (d) willing to commit to the Committee throughout the scope of the bond spending process; (e) preferably experienced in one of the range of professions specific to the 2018 bond projects lists; (f) in good standing in the community with a positive reputation for fairness and transparency; (g) active in the community. For more information, visit https://www.weareferndale.org. To request an application contact Riley Cornelsen at email@example.com.
Yard signs are intended to convince a citizen to vote a certain way on an issue or a candidate. As such, they are part of a “promotional” campaign. The School District has an obligation to inform citizens about the bond. However, the School District is prohibited from using public funds or paid time of public employees to promote the bond. In other words, we cannot try to persuade people to vote yes or no – for instance, by putting up yard signs.
An independent citizen group has organized in Ferndale to support the bond. Members of this group have solicited private donations to pay for “Vote Yes” promotional yard signs. They plan to get the signs out in the community within the next few weeks.
The District Maintenance Crew is working hard to take care of our facilities and also to create the kinds of welcoming entrances that let students, parents, and community members know we care about them and we take pride in our work. The Vista project has created a big impact for a relatively small investment. The plan is to implement similar beautification projects at our other school sites as well.
You can find your student’s bus route by plugging your address into the INFOFINDER app on our District website.
Follow these steps:
- First go to the website at https://www.ferndalesd.org.
- Look at the drop down menu under “Departments and Programs.”
- Click on “Transportation.”
- Click on “Bus Routes.”
- Enter your address and zip code in the Search form and view the results.
The first day of school for the 2018-2019 school year is September 5th. For more information on the Ferndale School District calendar, please see the 2018-2019 Calendar.
No. We want families to look forward to the start of school without worrying about purchasing school supplies. That is why we announced that the Ferndale School District is covering school supplies for all elementary students. All those supplies will be available in classrooms when students show up for school in September.
In addition, the District is happy to be able to provide supplies for secondary students who qualify. Supplies will be distributed to secondary students who qualify on August 28th, 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM at the Vista Middle School Gym. A recent blog post provides more information, HERE.
The School District is very pleased to have a wonderful new resource available to the Ferndale community. A new website is our “one-stop-shop” for questions about the process, tax impact, and construction. The website is www.weareferndale.org . Take a look and let us know what you think!
We want to provide as many positive activities for young people as our resources will allow. The reason we don’t offer middle school boys baseball is a resource issue. In this case, it is due to lack of facilities. The Whatcom County middle school baseball season occurs in the spring, and this creates a facility issue for Vista and Horizon. Since we do not have baseball fields at our two middle schools -- like all (or most) or the other middle schools in the county -- the middle school team would have to share the high school field. That, however, is nearly impossible since we are running three competitive high school teams during the same season.
The reason we can participate in the girls softball middle school season is that it runs in the fall, whereas our high school girls compete in the spring. This allows us to transport Vista and Horizon students to the high school to use the fields there during their season. We are required by Title IX to offer the same number of athletic activities to girls as we do to boys. Softball counts as one of the girls’ activities.
Vista has not had art elective classes for several years for two reasons: (1) the number of students choosing art was small when compared to other elective offerings; and (2) we did not have a person on staff at Vista to teach art. In response to increased student interest in this subject area, we have developed a plan to add eighth grade art into the schedule at Vista for the 2018-2019 school year.
No. This is a rumor, not a fact.
The only time middle school students can earn high school credit for middle school courses is when the curriculum and learning standards of the middle school courses are directly aligned with the curriculum and learning standards of the high school courses.
Currently, there are only two middle school courses in Ferndale that meet these criteria. They are Spanish 1 and Algebra 1.
All of Ferndale’s developmental preschool classes will be relocated to the North Bellingham campus beginning in Fall 2018. The rationale for these moves include the following:
• Having all of the preschool programs on one campus will give preschool teachers the opportunity to engage in more collaboration, participate together in a meaningful Professional Learning Community work, jointly address problems related to individual students, and learn from one another.
• The North Bellingham site will provide larger classrooms than two of our three preschool programs have had in their previous locations, and this enlarged space will better accommodate the needs of the students. In addition the classrooms the preschool program will be using at North Bell all have easy access to appropriately sized bathroom facilities.
• The North Bellingham site will give preschoolers greater access to gym facilities.
• The North Bellingham site will allow the eventual expansion of the number of preschool classrooms the district operates. Currently, we have maxed out the capacity to add preschool classrooms at Custer and Eagleridge.
• A common location for all our developmental preschool students will reduce travel time between sites for service providers and, conversely, increase the time they are providing direct service to students and families.
• A common location will allow the district to improve leadership, supervision, coordination, and support for all early learning programs. We can more easily, for instance, sponsor targeted programs like preschool open houses, curriculum nights, and parent engagement activities.
• Moving preschool programs out of Cascadia, Custer, and Skyline will give each of these schools additional classroom space for accommodating growing populations and/or reducing class size.
• A single location for all preschool students will make transportation more economical and efficient. While some students’ may experience a slightly longer bus ride, others will have shorter rides.
At this time, metal detectors are not considered a best practice for school safety and violence prevention.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2011-2012 school year, 2.7 % of public schools required students to pass through a metal detector every day. That number increased following school shootings like the one in Sandy Hook in 2014. However, many districts that installed metal detectors have subsequently taken them out. Most safety experts do not recommend metal detectors because:
• Due to practical reasons like cost and required manpower, they are unsustainable.
• They can give a false sense of security or be seen a replacement for better strategies. (Shootings have occurred in schools where metal detectors were in use.)
• In order to do its job, a metal detector must be coupled with other measures that are not realistic. First and foremost, they must be in use around the clock, 365 days a year, to prevent someone from stashing a weapon. They require that all ground-floor windows remain permanently shut so no one can pass anything into the building. They prohibit anyone from opening any door, even temporarily. They require every entrance and exit to be constantly manned any time the building is in use.
• Some of these measures violate local ordinances and fire codes.
• Maintenance problems, down time, and associated costs reduce the value of the detectors.
• Investing in long-term strategies focused on people have been shown to get better returns. If a student or adult is determined to get a weapon into a school, they will find a way to bypass a metal detector.
• The first and best line of defense is a highly alert and well-trained staff and student body. Finding out about a weapon in school is more likely to be the result of building relationships with students and making them feel comfortable reporting it to a trusted adult.
If the capital bond passes in November, we will be implementing safety and security enhancements in each of our buildings. We will consult with safety experts to plan the specifics of this work. If best practice research changed, and/or if new metal detector technology makes them a more viable option, we will reconsider this strategy for enhancing school security.
We checked with the Fire Inspector to get an answer to this question. He told us that deadbolts are not allowed on classroom doors according to IFC (International Fire Code) Section 1010.1.9. Doors must be equipped with single-action, paddle-style handles that unlock with one press. Round door knobs are also prohibited.
It is possible to fence Ferndale High School. Like anything else, fences are not the only solution in the safety picture, but we are looking at options for fencing some areas of the Ferndale High School campus.
If the proposed 2018 Bond package passes in November, we anticipate being able to build a school that better supports school safety standards including fewer exterior doors and entry points. Any fencing we do until that time will be a short-term solution.
Yes. On Friday evening, May 25, the administrative team at Horizon became aware that a threat had been made. The Ferndale Police Department was contacted to provide assistance per School District policy.
The Ferndale School District treats all threats of violence as credible. School administrators and staff at each of our schools are trained to treat such threats with full attention and urgency. Our response includes activating a “threat assessment.” A threat assessment includes:
• Contact: Engaging with outside law enforcement. In most cases the Ferndale Police Department.
• Investigation: Initiating a full and thorough investigation of both the threat and the individual making the threat. Law enforcement professionals conduct the investigation, which generally includes interviews, background checks, and searches of the individual’s person and home. It generally also includes a mental health assessment.
• Plan: Creating a course of action based on recommendations from law enforcement and mental health professionals.
• Consequences: Applying penalties and/or supports appropriate to the individual situation.
In this case, an emergency expulsion was initiated and a threat assessment was implemented as described above. Given a recommendation from the Ferndale Police Department and outside mental health professionals, a safety plan was developed which included clearing the student to return to school.
While the student was cleared to return to school –and did so briefly during the week of June 4 -- it became clear that his presence at Horizon was causing disruption for other students. Given that, the Ferndale School District and the family made the decision that the student would be under supervision off school campus and not return to Horizon for the final week of the year.
Although we believed our school was safe, we requested heightened police presence during the last week of the school year to reassure students and families.
The District recently agreed to lease a portion of Mt. View Elementary to ESD 189 to house the Whatcom Discovery Program beginning in July 2018. Discovery is a special education program that serves behaviorally challenged students from all seven Whatcom County School Districts. Currently, there are a total of 38 students enrolled, nine of whom live in Ferndale. The program has been housed in a leased facility in south Bellingham for the past several years, and we have been busing our nine students to and from that location every day.
The principal of Discovery is a former Ferndale teacher, Anita Tromp, who taught special education classes at Skyline Elementary and Ferndale High schools, and completed her principal internship at FHS.
Mrs. Tromp approached us several months ago about the possibility of moving Discovery to the Mt. View site. Since that time, we have been involved in discussions and negotiations.
On May 29, the School Board approved a lease agreement between our district, ESD 189, and the Whatcom Discovery Program. The duration of the lease is 37 months. We do not want to tie up the building for too long, since we expect we will need to use it in the future. On the other hand, we had to grant a long enough lease to make it worthwhile for the Discovery Program to pay for the needed improvements to the facility.
The advantages of this agreement include:
• Discovery will pay for repairs to the building that we do not have dollars to pay for ourselves at this time.
• Regular tenants in the building will reduce vandalism and other unwanted activity on the Mt. View campus.
• Once the building is opened up, cleaned up, and fixed up, the district will be able to use sections of it (like the library) for meeting space, thereby reducing the need to use our schools during the school day. (Discovery is only going to inhabit the classrooms in the office wing of the school.)
• The District will realize revenue from the lease agreement.
• The District will save both dollars and bus driver hours by not having to transport nine Ferndale students to and from south Bellingham every day.
The recent activity at Mt. View is a combination of our staff cleaning the building and contractors hired by Discovery making repairs.
The Ferndale School District may install a generator to support Beach (or any school) if that purchase is warranted and the cost can be justified. At this point, the purchase of a generator at Beach cannot be justified.
While the School District supports and participates in community preparedness activities, we are not in a position to prioritize the purchase of equipment that is not specifically intended for School District work.
Ferndale voters are being asked to consider a bond in November 2018 for several priorities, including a new Ferndale High School, modernization of the Performing Arts Center, safety and security, and critical maintenance projects. The Community Bond Task Force that recommended this bond package also recommended that a Community Task Force be established in the future to evaluate our elementary school buildings, including looking into the feasibility of putting generators at each site. We anticipate this question will be considered at a later date.
The 2018-2019 school calendar was completed and approved by the School Board in March 2018. A copy is available on the district website at
Yes, it is true.
- Students were dismissed for a scheduled early release day on Wednesday, May 8.
- After the majority of campus had cleared, an unnamed student waved a handgun at another student while leaving the FHS campus.
- The incident was immediately reported to Ferndale High School Campus Safety and Administration.
What we did about it:
- As soon as the incident was reported, Ferndale High School administrators contacted the Ferndale Police Department.
- The Ferndale Police Department began coordinating an investigation, which included arresting the student who allegedly brought the firearm onto the FHS campus.
At this point, the legal process will move forward. Appropriate school discipline has been applied and there will be consequences for this minor student above and beyond the jurisdiction of the Ferndale School District
We relocated students from two classrooms at Skyline this last week. After discovery of water damage in a classroom at Skyline, we wanted to make sure that the classrooms were empty while we evaluated environmental quality.
We brought in third-party air quality experts right away. Those experts came in, identified the problem, and repaired water damage from a faulty window seal in Room 16. That repair work included opening a wall, cleaning, drying, and repairing all affected areas. We then asked for another round of environmental testing in Room 15, Room 16, and other areas throughout our school. Those tests came back clear.
Because tests came back clear, classes were returned to Room 15 and Room 16 on Wednesday, May 16.
The purpose of an Oversight Committee is to provide accountability for 2018 Bond spending.
Anyone can apply to be on the committee with a few qualifications:
- Committee members must be Ferndale School District residents.
- They cannot be a current FSD employee, board member, vendor, contractor, or consultant.
- They cannot be a current City of Ferndale employee or consultant.
- They should be active community members.
- Experience in a range of professions specific to the 2018 bond projects (building design/construction, project management, accounting, real estate, finance, education, etc.) is preferred.
- Good standing and reputation in the community for fairness and transparency is critical.
If you are interested in applying to be part of the committee, you can pick up an application form from any member of the Bond Committee or at the District Office. Once you return it, you will be contacted.
During their meetings, Community Bond Task Force members discussed several options for the high school. They considered the affordability of each option, the desire for facilities to support “Ferndale Pride,” and concerns about whether updating existing facilities (e.g. gym, cafeteria and the PAC) instead of building new ones would create more maintenance needs down the road.
Regarding FHS, Task Force members considered three main options: (1) building a whole new high school, on the existing site; (2) keeping and modernizing the performing arts center, gym complex, and cafeteria and building the remaining areas of the high school new; or (3) building a whole new high school on a different site, which would need to be purchased. After much discussion about these three options and several variations, Task Force members ended up recommending that we build all new high school buildings except the performing arts center, which should be modernized.
The main reasons for their recommendation include the following:
Cost: The estimated cost for the partial renovation/partial new option (maintaining the three buildings that are in good enough shape to be brought up to code) is $97 million. The estimated cost for a whole new Ferndale High School, except for a renovated performing arts center, is $107 million (which includes $2 million for upgrades to the PAC and $4 million for the stadium, track and field). Task Force members reasoned that, for $10 million more, we could (a) end up with a much better facility and (b) prevent taxpayers from having to deal with more critical maintenance needs in 10-20 years.
Design: New construction will provide the flexibility to create an energy-efficient two-story facility that supports current and future educational programs, whereas a renovation would require “working around” old buildings to integrate them with new ones and compromising in the process on program needs.
Safety: New construction will increase the ability to limit access to the high school building and implement other modern safety features.
Site Improvements: New construction will also address drainage issues on the current high school site.
Student Convenience: Building a new facility adjacent to the existing one will allow students to stay in the old building until the new one is complete, whereas a renovation would require them to move several times during the construction project.
Performing Arts Center: The decision to keep the current performing arts center is based on the fact that (a) it is larger than most districts can afford to include in new construction at today’s prices; (b) it was state-of-the-art when it was built and remains an excellent high school facility; (c) upgrades to electrical, mechanical, and sound systems can correct most of the current deficiencies in the building; and (d) moving some classes out of the performing arts center and into the new high school can free up additional space needed for the performing arts.
All the options the Task Force discussed, along with their reasons for rejecting or selecting them, are explained in more detail on the Bond Task Force website. See pages 7-8 of the Final Recommendations Report (https://fsdbondtaskforce.participate.online).
School bonds are funded through property taxes. Considering the increase everyone in Ferndale saw on their most recent 2018 property tax statement, that could understandably be cause for alarm. However, the tax story for the 2018 Bond is a much happier one.
Taxes went up significantly in 2018 for one year only. This one-year increase resulted from the McCleary decision made by the State Legislature to shift more of the funding of basic education from the local level to the state level. For one year only (2018), we are experiencing an overlap as both new state education taxes and old local education taxes are being collected. This will change in 2019 resulting in a significant decrease in education taxes overall.
So what will the bond cost if it passes?
In 2019, the school taxes on a $300,000 house will be $45 less per year than they were in 2017. (We are leaving 2018 out of these comparisons since, as explained above, it is an anomaly.) Taxes for 2020 through 2022 on a $300,000 house will be $45 more per year than they were in 2017. From 2023 on, taxes on a $300,000 house will be $36 per year less per year than they were in 2017. (This decrease will occur in 2023 because the school district’s one existing bond will be paid off in 2022.)
It’s true Custer is getting a new principal beginning in July 2018. Mrs. Kim Hawes, currently serving as half-time principal of Windward High School and half-time Early Learning Director, will be moving into the leadership role at Custer.
Kim started her career in Ferndale as a primary teacher. She served as principal of Eagleridge Elementary and principal of Vista Middle School before moving into her current position – so she brings with her a wealth of excellent experience spanning pre-school through grade 12. She requested the move to Custer when the principalship there became open, and we are thrilled to have her in this new role.
The principal position at Custer opened up because the current principal, John Fairbairn, has been selected to serve in a district-level capacity as Executive Director of Human Resources. John will be replacing Paul Douglas, currently leading the HR Department, when Paul moves down the district office hall into the role of Executive Director of Student Services. Paul will be replacing the current leader of our Student Services Department, Jill Iwasaki, who is retiring on June 30, 2018.
Again this summer, our school district is planning to run five summer learning programs for students. Classes will begin on June 25 and run through July 20. Tuition for the district’s summer programs is free to students who qualify. Free transportation and a healthy snack will be provided as well.
Jump Start is an early learning readiness program for incoming kindergartners who have had limited exposure to formal school settings.
The Elementary Summer Success Program serves students in grades K-4 who need additional support in reading or math.
Summer Trek is a middle-to-high-school program that engages students to be community problem-solvers by involving them in service learning projects.
Credit Retrieval is a high school program that allows students in grades 9-12 to make up the credits they need for graduation by completing online coursework.
Extended School Year serves special education students in grades K-12 who need continued learning support in the summer to maintain gains made during the school year.
The Credit Retrieval and Summer Trek prorams will be based at Ferndale High School. The elementary programs will be based at Skyline Elementary, which is also where our Summer School Coordinator, Melissa Solorzano, will locate her office.
The Lummi Nation School is also running summer school programs this year. So Ferndale students who are enrolled members of the Lummi Nation may also take advantage of summer learning opportunities provided on the reservation. Any high school credits earned through the Lummi program will be honored by the Ferndale District.
We intentionally started our new Ferndale Community Connections (homeschool support) Program small this spring so we could work out all the logistics before a full-scale launch in September 2018. Opening on the North Bellingham campus on April 10, 2018, we have been serving 13-15 students in grades K-8 with two wonderful teachers for the past seven weeks. We definitely plan to continue the program in the fall, expanding our enrollment and also the grades we will be able to support from K-8 to K-10.
The Ferndale Family Connections Program is available to any K-10 student living within the boundaries of the Ferndale School District. It is also open to students from other places who obtain the required release from their home district.
For more information about Ferndale Family Connections, contact Lea Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-383-9200.
Kindergarten registration for the 2018-2019 school year began in February 2018, although it is never too late to get your new little student signed up for school. The best people to help you do so are the principal and his/her assistant in the main office of your home school. (That means if you live in the Eagleridge attendance area, you should register your student in the Eagleridge main office. If you live in the Custer attendance area, you should register your student in the Custer main office. And so on.) If you are not sure which school is your home school, contact Lea Morris at email@example.com or 360-383-9200. She will gladly assist you.
Our District DOES have a great CTE (Career and Technical Education) program. In CTE we strive to educate the whole student through academic rigor and hands-on learning. We use industry standards as our measure whenever possible. We believe in learning through doing and strive to give students relevant experiences that solidify their plan for after high school.
Areas of CTE study that we offer at Ferndale High School include:
- Business & Finance
- Family & Consumer Science
- Media Technology
- Photo Design
- Sports Medicine
We do have students on “flexible” schedules on a case-by-case basis.
The bottom-line is that being chronically absent or having attendance challenges does not automatically put a student on a flexible schedule. Attendance is usually a side effect of something deeper whether it is health or family issues or other behavior concerns.
We do what’s best for students and try to meet them where they’re at. Nonetheless, they are still required to meet the graduation requirements in order to receive a FHS diploma.
The Ferndale School District is regulated by state and federal law, supervised by the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and is audited annually by the State Auditor’s Office (SAO).
The State Auditor’s Office just completed their audit of our District for 2017, and we earned clean audit results in the areas of accountability and general financial practices. We are celebrating this news and also the members of our Business and Accounting Team who work so hard every day to achieve these kind of results.
The Citizen Bond Task Force recommended a package of projects for Ferndale School Board’s consideration. The School Board accepted the package as presented. The projects include:
FINAL FERNDALE BOND PACKAGE:
Community Oversight Committee: to ensure that bond funds are spent according to what is detailed in the bond package, and that all projects are implemented as planned.
NEW Ferndale High School: $105 Million
Modernization of existing Performing Arts Center at Ferndale HS: $2 Million
Critical Needs (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, roofing): $4 Million
Safety & Security at all FSD buildings: $1 Million
Total Recommendation: $112 Million
Yes. Free & Reduced lunch applications must be filled out every year.
The District currently has over $60,000 in unpaid school lunch debt. Much of that would have been covered had an application been completed.
If an application for Free & Reduced lunch is not completed by October lunch debt begins to accumulate. The balance that is accumulated in the absence of a Free & Reduced lunch application is applied to a student’s account; and, unfortunately, any debt incurred before the completed application has been received and processed cannot be erased once the application is in.
That is why it is so important to fill out those applications early in the fall of every school year.
As part of the District’s safety program we have encouraged and supported law enforcement training at our schools. We share a belief with our local law enforcement agencies that law enforcement personnel who are familiar with our schools will be better prepared to come to our aide when we need them.
While we have not had an increase in training events, we are working to communicate with our community in advance when we know that law enforcement will have a presence at our schools.
The County SWAT team was using Vista after school hours on April 19 for Tac Med class, which is the professional version of “Stop the Bleed.” As part of our partnership with local law enforcement, the School District allows them to use our facilities for classes as well as tactical trainings.
No. No Ferndale teachers have been pulled out of class this year to train for the administration of state assessments. All training has occurred during non-student time. The assessment itself does occur during the school day, as required by the state, and teachers monitor the tests.
The District works hard to minimize the amount of time we pull teachers away from their students for meetings or trainings. The purpose of student early release days is to provide collaborative work time and professional training for teachers on a schedule that is predictable for families and that minimizes the impact of the current shortage of substitute teachers.
The District administration published a statement saying they do not favor arming teachers, but some citizens asked specifically about the School Board’s position on this topic.
Current State law prohibits teachers from carrying guns in school district buildings unless the local school board adopts a policy to the contrary. The Ferndale School Board does not intend to put in place a policy that contradicts the law.
The School Board discussed the concept of arming teachers with Ferndale Chief of Police Kevin Turner at their Study Session on April 18, 2018. The Chief shared pros and cons but ultimately indicated that he feels the dangers of arming teachers outweigh any safety benefits. Therefore, he is not in favor of arming teachers. This conversation reinforced the position of the School Board and the District administration against arming teachers in our school buildings.
The Police Department is helping the District train staff and students. Some parents and other local citizens have asked where they can get training as well.
To the extent that they have the necessary manpower, the Ferndale Police Department will put on active shooter response trainings for groups – churches, businesses, civic organizations, etc. – upon request. They also offer periodic trainings for individuals. A schedule of such trainings is posted on their website.
We do not have routers on the ceilings of our classrooms. Wireless networks use low-powered Radio Frequency (RF) transmitters called wireless access points to communicate with other low-powered transmitters in our students’ computers and other portable equipment like cell phones. The amount of Radio Frequency energy is very low and falls off significantly when individual students are not using their computers.
International research has failed to show any connection between Radio Frequency energy and health issues, especially when the RF fields fall below international safety limits, as ours do. The World Health Organization (WHO) published a statement recently saying that "no health effects are expected from exposure to RF fields from [cellular] base stations and wireless networks (WHO 2006).”
No. Officers of the law are exempt from the School District’s “no guns at school” policy. They are allowed to bring their guns onto our campuses.
Current State law prohibits teachers from carrying guns in school district buildings unless the local school board adopts a policy to the contrary. The Ferndale School Board has not to date put in place a policy that contradicts the law, so right now a teacher would not be permitted to carry a gun in a school building.
The School Board has not had a conversation about changing its policy on guns. However, members of the executive administration have talked about this idea with the Ferndale Chief of Police. The Chief indicated he is not in favor of arming teachers. Based on our conversation with law enforcement and other members of our Safety Advisory Committee, the Ferndale School District administration does not support teachers with guns in our schools.
The Task Force’s recommendations for the bond include the following:
- Build a mostly new Ferndale High School (everything except the Performing Arts Center): $105 Million
- Modernize the existing Performing Arts Center at Ferndale High School: $2 Million
- Address the most critical needs across the District (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, roofing): $4 Million
- Enhance safety and security in all District buildings: $1 Million
- Run a total bond package of $112 Million
- Form a Community Oversight Committee to ensure that bond funds are spent according to what is detailed in the bond package and that all projects are implemented as planned
As a whole, I want to be careful not to speak for the Task Force. The citizen group is an independent body. I can, however, report regarding some of the discussions I observed on this point.
The Task Force did not come to consensus on the issue of renovating North Bellingham to reopen it as an elementary school. The group went back and forth about how to balance overall cost, value, and long-term need across the entire bond recommendation package.
A strong majority of Task Force members asked the full group to consider withholding the renovation or North Bellingham from its recommendations for the 2018 bond out of respect for overall cost. In addition, there were lengthy discussions regarding enrollment projections for our elementary schools. At this time, enrollment does not show immediate need for more space.
The short answer is “yes.”
Our student athletes in multiple sports, including track and soccer, are no longer able to use our facilities for home games and meets. Other athletic facilities, including the football stadium, are in real need of repair and/or replacement. Upgrades to all our student athletic facilities will be achieved through investments from the bond package, if it passes in November 2018.
Earlier this month (March 2018), the School District was notified by Whatcom County Health Department that we had one diagnosed case of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, at Ferndale High School and one case at Horizon Middle School. (The two diagnosed students are siblings.)
The District’s practice related to infectious diseases is to follow the directions of the Health Department. In this situation, the Health Department directed us to send a letter to all families and individuals who may have had possible exposure to the students with the diagnosis. On March 15, we sent such a letter of notification to all parents and guardians of FHS and Horizon students. The Health Department did not direct us to exclude anyone from any of our schools.
As part of the District’s commitment to ongoing maintenance at Mountain View, we removed the portables recently. The portables had outlived their useful life and we want to make sure that we are great neighbors and caretakers of school district property.
The District plans to continue to maintain the Mt. View property, including the existing play structure. We are open to the possibility of hosting programs and/or long-term tenants, and we will be caring for the buildings with that in mind.
Safety is on everyone’s mind. District administrators have held several meetings recently to talk about how we can enhance our safety programs. Plans resulting from those meetings include the following:
- Working in conjunction with our building leaders and community first responders, we are initiating a process of reviewing, re-assessing, and revamping all our building safety plans looking specifically at evacuation plans and best practices related to emergency response.
- We are scheduling trainings at each school and worksite between March 27 and the end of the year to make sure all staff are briefed on any changes in safety plans and/or procedures.
- We are planning to start a monthly safety newsletter for all district staff.
- We are amplifying our efforts to address students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs. Two strategies we are looking at for accomplishing this work are: (1) expanding the scope of the District Safety Advisory Committee (SAC) to focus on prevention as well as response; and (2) pulling all the various pieces of this work together (PBIS, Second Step, the Ferndale Community Coalition, etc.) under one director beginning summer 2018.
- In the spirit of relationship building, we are implementing a new program called “Bite with a Buddy.” In order to get more first responders into our schools and interacting with our students and staff in non-crisis situations, Sodexo (Ferndale’s food service provider) has agreed to provide free breakfast or lunch to any of them who will come into school lunchrooms to sit down and eat with our students.
In 2017, 80.4 percent of high school seniors at Ferndale High School graduated on-time.
Beginning with the graduating class of 2011, the State of Washington began mandating the use of an adjusted cohort method for calculating graduation rate in all state high schools. To calculate graduation based on this method, we track a “cohort” of first-time 9th graders in a particular school year, and adjust this number by adding any students who transfer into the cohort after 9th grade and subtracting any students who transfer out.
The on-time graduation rate is the percentage of the students in this cohort who graduate within four years.
This question was first raised in our community in the summer of 2016. As a result of the question, our Assistant Superintendent, Scott Brittain, decided to join a state-wide review task force with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Olympia to become better informed about the piece of legislation that governs the new health standards, the content of the standards, and the state’s plan for implementing those standards.
Through this work, Mr. Brittain learned that the health standards are broad statements with which very few of us would disagree. They include assertions such as “Students will comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention to enhance health.” There is little controversy about the standards themselves, but questions have arisen about some of the suggested grade-level outcomes, especially as they relate to gender identity and orientation.
Mr. Brittain learned that the state is clear about learning standards, but less prescriptive about outcomes. The following text is directly from the state:
The state determines learning standards. Standards are broad statements about what students should know and be able to do. They are required to be taught in public schools.
Districts, schools and teachers determine grade-level outcomes. Grade-level outcomes (or student learning outcomes) described in the standards are optional for schools and teachers.
Districts, schools and teachers select textbooks and other teaching materials (curriculum and instructional materials). The choice of textbooks and other teaching materials, the development of lesson plans and grade-level instruction, and the use of grade-level outcomes are all up to each school district.
The only state legislative requirements for health education topics are CPR and AED instruction, suicide prevention and mental health, and HIV and STD prevention (annual HIV prevention education beginning no later than fifth grade).
Sexual health education is optional. If a district chooses to offer sexual health education, it must be medically and scientifically accurate, age appropriate, appropriate for students regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability status, and consistent with the Guidelines for Sexual Health and Disease Prevention. These are requirements of the Healthy Youth Act, which was passed by the state legislature in 2007.
Parents may opt their students out of all or part of sexual health education classes.
Since we last responded to questions about the new health standards, we have worked with stakeholders to make decisions about grade-level learning outcomes that are aligned with the values of our Ferndale schools, families, and community. As a result, we have decided not to teach sexual identity/orientation in any of our Ferndale elementary schools.
Further questions on this topic may be directed to Scott Brittain, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the core elements under consideration by the Bond Task Force is creation of a Citizen Oversight Committee separate from the School District and the School Board that would oversee the use of bond funds throughout the capital construction and renovation projects. The Oversight Committee would be charged with reporting to the community on a regular basis about how their tax dollars were being spent.
District administrators and members of the Bond Task Force share a strong interest in building trust within the community by creating transparency and accountability throughout every phase of the bond process. Other communities have successfully utilized a Citizens Oversight Committee for this purpose.
At the administrative level, we have reviewed research about the benefits of starting school after 8:30 am for teenagers, and we have discussed the possibility of altering our current school schedules in Ferndale. However, we have not to date made any concrete plans to change the start time of our high schools and middle schools from the current 7:40 am.
Beginning in Fall 2017, the Bellingham School District changed its school start and end times. This year, Bellingham elementary students are attending classes from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm (in the past, elementary hours were 8:30 am to 3:00 pm); and Bellingham secondary students are attending classes from 8:30 am to 3:15 pm (in the past, secondary hours were 7:45 am to 2:15 pm). Availability of buses requires that elementary and secondary times be staggered in Bellingham, as it does in Ferndale.
Making this schedule change was a lengthy process in Bellingham. The administration proposed several options before they came up with a plan that wasn’t rejected either by parents or one of their unions. We hope we can learn from their research and experience to avoid some of the pitfalls they encountered, should we decide to start down the road of making such a change in our district. To this end, we plan to request information from Bellingham at the end of the current school year about the pros and cons of their transition.
Although the conversation about changing start times has been ongoing at the administrative level in Ferndale, we have received very few inquiries about this topic from our staff or parents, and we have heard no significant community support for the change.
In order to work from a common definition of “overcrowding,” the district and the teachers’ union have worked together to determine class size targets at each grade level. When class sizes exceed those targets, we have also outlined in contract language the process for addressing the overage.
Elementary class targets are as follows:
- Kindergarten…20 students
- First Grade…23 students
- Second Grade...25 students
- Third Grade…25 students
- Fourth Grade…27 students
- Fifth Grade…27 students
Since student enrollment numbers change throughout the year as some students move in and others move out, we get a new report of our class sizes across the district on the 10th day of each month. At our last report, we had 22 elementary classrooms over the targets out of a total of 93 elementary classrooms districtwide. They were as follows:
- 8 Kindergarten Classrooms: three at 21, three at 22, one at 24, and one at 25
- 4 First Grade Classrooms: one at 24, one at 25, and two at 26
- 0 Second Grade Classrooms
- 2 Third Grade Classrooms: one at 26 and one at 27
- 2 Fourth Grade Classrooms: both at 30
- 5 Fifth Grade Classrooms: one at 29, three at 30, and one at 31
- 1 Fourth/Fifth Grade Combination Classroom: at 29
As per our contract with teachers, when a classroom exceeds its target by one or two students, we increase the teacher’s pay. If the number grows larger than two over the target, the principal works with the teacher and district administrators to determine some kind of additional assistance. As outlined in the contract, such assistance might include adding planning time for the teacher, para-educator support in the classroom, or another teacher at that grade level. In some instances, remedies have also included closing enrollment at a particular school or even moving a student from one school to another when doing so works for the family.
We also have target numbers in our contract for secondary schools, and they work similarly. However, the secondary targets are more complicated and harder to capture in a simple chart, since teachers teach multiple classes, subjects, and grades.
In Ferndale, our schools already serve as hubs of community activity. Large crowds gather under the Friday night lights of the stadium to cheer on the high school football team. Concerts and plays draw huge throngs. Local sports clubs use our athletic fields and gyms. We give space to service providers whose mission is to serve children and youth. Recently, both the Ferndale Food bank and the Ferndale Public Library have contacted us about placing distribution and drop-off services on our campuses.
We are very excited to be welcoming the community in a new way beginning in March when we will begin offering adult ELL classes at Ferndale High School. We know that families of our ELL students need English language support in order to best support students and we look forward to using our high school library for this purpose.
We would welcome the chance to implement additional ways our high school in particular could be used by the community, and we believe a new and improved high school facility would support us in doing so. In fact, we envision a school that is deliberately designed to be a center of our community and serve a wider variety of community needs in some or all of the following ways:
- Helping to meet the community’s leisure, recreational, and wellness needs. (School facilities can be used for the kind of enrichment programs – festivals, theater performances, concerts – that enhance a community’s cultural assets at a fraction of what it would cost to duplicate the same types of spaces elsewhere.)
- Being accessible to people of all ages. (An onsite daycare facility could help fill a growing shortage of such services and also provide a learning lab for future teachers. A school building designed to be open later or longer could permit senior citizens to use the gym and health facilities during non-school hours or take evening classes in a computer or art lab.)
- Encouraging more active parental involvement. (A parent resource center built into the school could send a powerful message that we want parents to take an active role in their children’s learning.)
- Supporting relationships with local businesses that are productive to students and supportive of the local economy. (A school facility should also be welcoming to community mentors and local businesses. We have even seen high schools designed to house branches of certain businesses, like a sponsored student store or a small bank where students can apply their learning.)
- Allowing creative space and time configurations to expand the concepts of “school day.” (We believe we need schools that support learning after hours, at night, and on weekends, and where school-to-school partnerships and collaborations with higher education are encouraged and supported.)
The mission of the Ferndale Community Coalition is to build safe and healthy communities by providing leadership, promoting prevention, and building partnerships that mobilize youth, families, and neighborhoods to promote healthy relationships and consent, and reduce substance abuse, and other destructive behaviors, among youth and the broader community.
The Ferndale Community Coalition (FCC), established in 2012, is a group of Ferndale School District staff and community partners who share a common mission to promote youth health, safety, and resiliency. Meeting monthly, the members of the FCC are focused on creating the type of community in which we want our young people to work, live and play. They understand that, what no single organization or agency can do alone, we can accomplish together.
The FCC was born out of a STEP grant our district received from the U.S. Department of Justice. We were of one of nine communities in the country selected to receive this grant seven years ago. Recently we were the only one of the original nine grantees to be given a second grant by the Department of Justice (called Safe Futures). The reasons for the continued funding have everything to do with the diversity of our community coalition and the willingness our group has shown to come together around youth and families.
The Ferndale Community Coalition has become recognized as a model in the state for supporting students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs.
We are proud of students for taking action about something they believe in. We think it is our responsibility to protect and support their First Amendment rights, so long as we can do so without jeopardizing their safety or the safety of others. We want to help them exercise their voices in respectful dialogue and debate about issues that matter to them, especially since we know that passion and advocacy can lead to powerful learning.
At the same time, we are committed to ensuring that all students feel safe and respected no matter what side of a particular issue they are on. To this end, our schools and classes operated on normal schedules during the county-wide student protest/walk-out on February 21.
We also respect the role of parents in these activities. We informed our high school students know that we expected them to stay on campus on February 21 unless they had permission from their parents to participate in the off-campus protest. We demanded that our middle school students stay on campus unless they were physically picked up and transported by a parent or guardian. In a letter we sent to all parents, we asked them to talk with their older children about the protest that took place or February 21, whether or not they participated in it. Because we are aware that additional student-led events are being planned across the state and country for the weeks and months ahead, we encourage parents to help prepare young people for similar situations they may face in the future.
During the week of February 20-23, two concerning online communications were brought to the district’s attention.
The first was a hoax involving a school safety threat that was widely communicated online. The threat was investigated by the Ferndale Police Department and other police departments across the country. For more information please see a statement from the Ferndale Police Department. Although this incident turned out to be a hoax, we encouraged our community to assume all threats are credible and to continue to report all safety concerns.
The second concern brought to our attention centered on a Snapchat conversation from an unidentified user that was shared with multiple Ferndale High School students. The conversation, which contained a statement that could be interpreted as a threat, was reported to Ferndale High School administration who in turn shared it with the Ferndale Police Department. An active investigation ensued immediately, along with enhanced security and support on the high school campus.
We are always hyper-vigilant when it comes to student safety. We know the best way to ensure our children’s safety is to work together. We applaud the students, staff, and parents who have shared their concerns with us.
If you have information, tips or concerns about a safety issue, we encourage you to contact one of our schools or our district office directly. You can also report through our anonymous portal online at https://ferndale-wa.safeschoolsalert.com/ or by calling or texting 360.383.5353 or emailing email@example.com.
Windward High School has always been a school of choice. For the past 14 years, it has provided an excellent educational experience to the students who have chosen it. During the past few years, however, fewer students have elected the Windward option. Last spring only seven freshmen enrolled. When this year’s senior class graduates, there simply will not be enough students left to sustain the school. Sadly, that means we have had to decide that 2017-2018 will be Windward’s final year.
We didn’t make this decision until after the 2017-2018 school year had already begun. Last spring, the WHS staff and district administration put more effort into recruiting than ever, and right up until the last minute, we hoped more students would enroll. When they did not, we were forced to realize that we cannot recruit ourselves out of this situation.
With closure looking like an inevitability, we decided to make the decision final sooner rather than later. We wanted to give ourselves enough time to work with students and families to ensure each makes as soft a landing as possible into a new option next year.
While our main goal is to provide care and support for students as they go through this transition, we also want to support our Windward staff. All of them are guaranteed continued employment in the Ferndale School District next year. However, just as we need time with students, we need time to confer with each staff member about a future assignment that best fits his or her needs and desires.
On Thursday, January 25, Windward students and families, along with other secondary students in the district, were invited to an evening event on the WHS campus to provide information about the following high school options that will be available next year:
The Soar Program was created by the Ferndale School District several years ago as an option for students who have had barriers to success in a traditional high school setting but desire to graduate. One of its primary purposes was to provide an option for students to obtain Ferndale School District diploma by earning Washington State’s required 24 credits, just as Windward students do, rather than the 30 credits required of students at Ferndale High School. SOAR operates as a small school-within-a-school program at Ferndale High School. It provides a blended model with some online courses, some direct instruction, and access to a variety of Ferndale High School curricular and extracurricular programs. Its flexibility is designed to accommodate students who have outside commitments such as employment, medical needs, or family responsibilities.
Ferndale Virtual Academy will provide a personalized, flexible approach for students who want either a blended or fully online, anywhere, anytime approach to learning. Coursework at Ferndale Virtual Academy will be provided through the well-established and accredited Spokane Virtual Learning system. The menu of classes includes: 47 core courses, 7 Advanced Placement College Board approved courses, and a number of credit retrieval and elective courses. Students will be supported in their learning by Ferndale teachers through regular weekly check-ins and tutoring as needed. They will also have access to the virtual learning instructors who work in Spokane’s Virtual Learning system, all of whom are Washington State certificated teachers assigned to specific courses in which they are qualified.
IMPACT!, run by Bellingham Technical College on the BTC campus, is a flexible route to academic and career success. In addition to core academic subjects, students get support with such college and career readiness skills as time management, stress reduction, study skills, and accessing campus and community resources. They also get to take advantage of BTC’s career-focused programs leading to a two-year degree or technical certificate at no cost to them or their families.
Running Start gives 11th and 12th grade students the opportunity to get an early start on their college careers by attending all or some of their classes at a local community college and earning credit for those classes at both the high school and the college levels. Running Start is available to Ferndale students at both Whatcom Community College and Bellingham Technical College.
Ferndale High School remains another option for Windward students for part or all of their day.
In addition, the district is willing to work with families who want to design a completely new option (like a small evening high school) if enough interest exists for doing so.
We are working hard to create transparency at the School District. This means opening up, sharing our story, and answering questions. It also means finding new ways to reach people.
Over the last few months we have taken a long hard look at how we get information out to our community, and we are trying new things including an increased focus on social media; a brand new E-newsletter we published at the end of January; a new “We Are Ferndale” blog series; a trial run with Facebook Live (to communicate about Windward); and a general increase in opportunities for the community to interact with the school district.
At a recent Bond Task Force meeting, a question was raised by a community member about why the district no longer offers summer school programs.
Actually, the district offers five different summer school programs:
- Jump Start is an early learning readiness program for incoming kindergartners who have had limited exposure to formal school settings. Last summer we had 80 little Jump Starters in the summer program.
- The Elementary Summer Success Program serves students in grades K-4 who need additional support in reading or math. Last summer nearly 120 students participated.
- Summer Trek is a middle-to-high-school program that engages students to be community problem-solvers by involving them in service learning projects. Last summer approximately 30 students worked on projects dealing with water quality and hunger.
- Credit Retrieval is a high school program that allows students in grades 9-12 to make up the credits they need for graduation by completing online coursework. Last summer more than 90 students took advantage of this program.
- Extended School Year serves special education students in grades K-12 who need continued learning support to maintain gains made during the school year. Last summer, about two dozen students were enrolled.
What we don’t have in Ferndale that we used to have (more than a decade ago) is a summer program strictly for enrichment classes aimed at developing or extending students’ interests, like painting or robotics or creative writing. When such a summer school did exist in Ferndale, it was financially supported by community partners. The district would be willing to facilitate such an enrichment program again in the future. However, we do not have funding for teachers or supplies.
Every absence is a learning opportunity lost.
Studies show that missing just 10 percent or more of school (defined as chronic absenteeism) – whether absences are excused, unexcused, or due to suspension – predicts lower levels of numeracy and literacy for students by third grade, class failure in middle school, and higher levels of suspension.
Ultimately, missing school can lead to a greater likelihood that students will drop out of high school and/or have lower levels of persistence in college. Every absence, excused or unexcused, can have significant impacts on a student’s success in school and life.
With that said, we know some absences are unavoidable due to health problems or other circumstances, and we are not suggesting parents should send sick children to school. We just want to make sure they are armed with good information about the impact of attendance, which is the reason we are focusing so intently on this topic across our district.
Over the years, drainage problems have buckled the track’s surface making it uneven and unsafe for student use.
In 2009, the district paid a contractor $50,000 to make repairs to the track. He was reluctant to do so, because the only thing possible was a one-year emergency fix. We went ahead with the work despite the lack of a warranty because we didn’t want to deny our students or our community the use of this part of our facility. However, the fix didn’t last. Within two years, the track surface had returned to its previous unsafe state. Even if we wanted to continue to invest in temporary fixes, we would not be able to find contractors who would take on the work. According to their expert opinion, the only remedy is to rebuild the track completely above the water table.
Depending on the recommendations of the Bond Task Force and the decisions of the School Board, a new track may be part of the bond package offered to voters in November 2018.
A rat was discovered in our 400 Hallway on January 19, 2018. Maintenance staff trapped and removed the rat that day. School District staff also contacted rodent exterminators that day and requested an extensive inspection of our buildings with action as needed.
There has been at least one other sighting of a rat in an FHS building this fall and also some evidence of rat droppings. We take health and safety seriously and are committed to addressing this problem through a thorough process.
As part of our process, the Health Department inspected our buildings at Ferndale High School. The health inspector gave us a general thumbs up saying that the district is doing the right things to address the rodent problem. When we get his official report, we will be sharing it with the community.
Our community has been engaged in healthy dialogue about student safety and bullying. This conversation has given us the opportunity to listen to concerns and share our policies and practices.
Bullying is never ok. We are adamant on this point and principals in every Ferndale School District school are committed to supporting students who report bullying behavior. All of them have created procedures for reporting and dealing with bullying. All of them have also implemented teaching programs specifically designed to prevent bullying altogether and/or to stop it quickly if it occurs. Such programs include PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports), Second Step, and Capturing Kids’ Hearts.
As part of our effort to bring the community into this conversation about putting an end to bullying, we are hosting an upcoming Facebook Live session with our secondary principals on this topic. More information will be forthcoming.
Yes. At their meeting on January 22, the members of the Technology Advisory Committee decided to change our current practice regarding internet filtering on student devices.
All of our student devices are equipped with a filtering system called iBoss, which is a firewall that denies access to internet sites that may be inappropriate for school-age users including many social media sites. The iBoss is activated on all student computers all the time they are at school. However, when secondary students have taken their devices home, they have no longer been covered by the iBoss filtering system unless parents or guardians have requested that it be extended to cover all internet networks at all times. In other words, we have been operating our out-of-school filtering as an opt-in system with the default being no filtering except that which parents themselves impose. The decision to set things up this way was made by the Technology Task Force when we first started one-to-one and was based on input from parents.
This practice has been under review; and, as a result of that review, we are going to change from an opt-in to an opt-out system for all middle school students. Starting on February 2, the beginning of the new semester, iBoss will be turned on 24-7 unless parents or guardians request that it be turned off when their student(s) leave school. The reasons for this change have to do with online safety and student supervision.
The Community Bond Task Force is made up of approximately 50 volunteers and is run by a neutral outside facilitator. So far, the Task Force has met to evaluate school building conditions, prioritize needs, evaluate future plans, and provide input regarding a potential bond package recommendation. The work of the Task Force is not done. If the Task Force remains on schedule, members will deliver a recommendation to the School Board at the end of February. The School Board will then create a resolution to put before voters in November 2018.
Here are a few examples of the types of questions the Task Force is asking:
- How much space does each school need to accommodate future growth?
- Should we build “new” or “renovate?"
- What do our buildings need to better safeguard our students and staff?
- Are there educational needs we cannot meet in current buildings?
- How much of our building infrastructure is obsolete?
The members of the Bond Task Force have launched their own website to share the work they are doing and also gather input from citizens. It is not too late for any Ferndale citizen to add his/her thoughts to the conversation. Visit the Bond Task Force at https://fsdbondtaskforce.participate.online.
For the past 14 years, Windward High School has provided an excellent educational experience to the students who have chosen it.
Windward has always been a school of choice. During the past few years, fewer students have chosen the Windward option. Currently, there are fewer than 70 students enrolled, and 25 of them are seniors who will be graduating. Last spring only seven freshmen chose to attend Windward and two of them have left or are planning to leave. This tells us that we need to develop new options.
The current School Board and the district administration have always supported Windward. However, when this year’s senior class graduates, there simply will not be enough students left to sustain the school.
We discovered last spring that we cannot recruit ourselves out of this situation. The staff and administration put more effort into recruiting than ever and fewer students than ever signed up.
Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to close the school at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
The School Board and district administration are still deeply committed to providing a variety of options for students. They know one size does not fit all. To this end, they have begun to develop several new options which might be offered beginning in 2018-2019 if students let us know they are “the right options” by choosing them. Such options include: (1) a small evening high school; (2) a virtual academy; (3) a blended learning school-within-a-school with some digital courses and some traditional courses; and (4) a partnership program with Bellingham Technical College that could lead to a technical degree or certificate. This is neither a guaranteed list of options or a comprehensive list, just the beginning of our planning process which we intend to continue with input from students, families, and staff.
The Windward staff, supported by the School Board and district administration, pledges to work with each individual Windward student to ensure he/she makes as soft a landing as possible into a new option next year.
The Windward staff are highly valued members of the Ferndale School District team. Their continued employment in the district is guaranteed. Just as we work to find the best possible next placement for each student, we will be conferring with each staff about a future assignment that best fits their needs and desires.
Vista Room 16 has been reserved as a conference space and is regularly used as a meeting space for district and community meetings. Its proximity to the district office and its outside entrance onto the shared parking lot make it ideal for this purpose. However, it does mean that a number of people are entering the Vista building each week without checking in at the main office, which is located on the other side of the campus.
This situation has raised questions about what measures we are taking to ensure appropriate security at Vista. Such measures include:
- Ensuring the Vista main office staff is aware of the meeting schedule in Vista Room 16.
- Requiring everyone who attends a meeting in Vista Room 16 to wear an official school district identification badge or an authorized visitor badge.
- Requiring meeting attendees to use only the staff restrooms at Vista, not the student restrooms.
The district owns a 29-acre piece of land on Church Road. However, this parcel is not big enough for a comprehensive high school with numerous CTE (Career & Technical Education) offerings, a very popular performing arts curriculum, a large athletic program, and all the parking required by these activities. Such a high school would require a minimum of 40 acres.
We provide laptops to all our students because they are important learning tools in today’s society, and they will continue to be so in the future in which our children are going to live and work. They are the textbooks of this era. We have decided to issue them to students to use full-time for all the same reasons we used to issue textbooks to students to take home with them. Our motivation is aimed at ensuring equity. Some students have their own devices at home that they can use for doing school projects or other kinds of learning. Some students do not have their own devices. By giving a school device to everyone, we are trying to level the playing field.
The question has been raised about whether students can use their laptops for non-school-related uses. Although the initial Technology Use Agreement we drafted for students and parents to sign specified the devices were only for schoolwork, we are coming to realize that a hard line about school-only use is very hard to maintain for students and staff, and we are rethinking that part of our contract. If a student wants to check weather patterns on his or her device to see how warmly to dress tomorrow, do we want to prohibit that? If they want to check movie times or email a friend in the evening or at lunchtime, should that be against the rules? We think the internet is so ubiquitous and our students are working on assignments that are so diverse, it becomes difficult to draw a box around what is school work and what is not. Therefore, our approach is moving toward a hard line between what is appropriate and what is not, rather than what is schoolwork and what is not.
We have implemented a filter system within the school district that prevents students from accessing websites that have been deemed inappropriate. We also provide guidance to parents and guardians about how they can manage and/or block their children’s internet use at home. With that said, we realize we can never do enough blocking or filtering to keep students from misusing technology. We must also teach them to be ethical and critical consumers of the information they find on the internet. We must – and we do -- provide Digital Citizenship education in our classrooms, and we also offer this education to parents and guardians so they can reinforce the concepts at home. Among the topics included in our Digital Citizenship curriculum are digital footprint, safe social media use, cyber bullying, digital etiquette, and health & wellness.
Use of devices by our students is constantly evolving inside and outside of school. Inside school, we used to block Facebook. However, now we are using Facebook as one of our primary district communication tools. Therefore, we allow students access. As things change, neither teachers nor parents alone can be internet patrols all the time. We have to work together.
When students misuse their laptops, our responses vary according to the severity of the misuse. If a student is on a wrong site during a class period, the teacher might just redirect him or her. If a student is using the device to access inappropriate content or to engage in bullying or harassment, the same consequences will apply as they do when these offenses are committed without technology. In addition, students may lose internet privileges.
The district’s improvement goal for behavior states that "in every school, the total number of students assigned Exclusionary Discipline will decrease by 50% or more when compared to the number who were excluded during the 2017 school year." The question was raised about whether this means we will ensure students are “50% better behaved” or we will “reduce our expectations by 50%.” The question is a valid one.
In retrospect, our goal would have been more aptly stated as a desire to reduce the number of students who act in a manner that requires them to be excluded from their classrooms or schools, since it is not our intention to lower our standards for behavior. In fact, we have been working very hard to improve student behavior through more direct teaching of our behavioral expectations. This is a foundational piece of the PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) philosophy our district has been working to implement for the past five years. The behavior goal in our district improvement plan is intended to measure the success of that work.
A question was also raised about the second part of our behavior goal, which addresses our desire to eliminate the disparity in the number of disciplinary sanctions applied to various subgroups of students. The questioner referred to the American value that “justice should be blind,” and inferred that all interventions should be applied equally regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or other distinction.
We are committed to fairness and equity, which requires us to take off our blinders and look carefully at what the data might suggest about disparities and inconsistencies in our system. If, for instance, we notice that the subjects of 75% of our discipline referrals are boys and that 75% of our dropouts are boys, we need to ask ourselves whether the behavior of boys is inherently worse than the behavior of girls, or whether our system is not set up to meet the needs of boys as well as it meets the needs of girls.
Our ultimate goal is to meet the needs of all children so they can learn at the highest levels possible, progress successfully through school, earn their diplomas, and become contributing members of our society. We believe it is our responsibility to adjust our system in ways that support this goal.
Our goal is to make the work of the Bond Task Force as transparent and accessible as possible. To this end, we have taken the following steps:
- Instituted a practice of emailing weekly updates on the work of the Bond Task Force to all district staff and School Board members.
- Formed a Bond Task Force Communications Sub-Committee that will be meeting for the first time on Thursday, November 30. The committee’s agenda will include: (1) developing key messages; (2) communicating the work of the Bond Task Force; (3) exploring online participation channels; and (4) seeking community input.
- Hired a Communications/Social Media Specialist to assist us in getting the word out.
- Committed to creating and maintaining a separate Bond Task Force website, which will be launched by the end of the first week in December, to share information about the Task Force work with the broader community as well as to collect comments and suggestions. Names of Task Force members and dates of all Task Force and sub-committee meetings will be posted on the website, along with agendas, minutes, and supporting materials.
Questions about the work of the Bond Task Force can be directed at any time to Superintendent Linda Quinn (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Assistant Superintendent Mark Deebach (email@example.com).
When the 2017-2018 school year started, the Custer playground was partially but not completely fenced. In September, a parent asked whether the fence could be repaired and extended. The Custer principal also identified this as a need. Our new Director of Maintenance, Jamie Plenkovich, committed to getting this work done by the end of the 2017 calendar year. On November 16, Mr. Plenkovich reported that the fencing project had been completed. The Custer community is grateful for this safety upgrade at their school.
Last school year (2016-2017), we experienced a record number of school days missed due to weather. As one snow day followed another, we realized what a hardship multiple closures can cause for families who have built their work schedules around our school schedules; and we began devising a plan for mitigating some of that impact.
Our goal is to be able to provide a free "day camp" style child care program for district elementary students on snow closure days – should there be any – during the winter of 2017-2018. A survey of elementary parents conducted during fall conferences indicated that such a service would be much appreciated by families.
The planning process for our “Snow Day Camp” is currently underway. The one obstacle the district has encountered, however, is staffing. So far, we have not been able to identify staff members who feel certain they could get to work on snow days to run the camp. (If you know anyone who might be interested in this type of part-time work, please encourage him/her to contact Mark Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
When/if our plans are finalized, we will advertise this daycare option to parents of district elementary students. The one requirement for taking advantage of Snow Day Camp will be signing up in advance.
This situation occurred on Friday, November 3. Snow and ice on the roads in parts of the district prevented us from transporting students at the regular start time. Such weather conditions demanded a two-hour delayed start. However, November 3 had already been scheduled as an elementary early release day for parent-teacher conferences. Since it is impossible to run a late arrival and an early release on the same day, we canceled the early release. Although we realized this decision would likely create challenges for some families and would require parents and teachers to reschedule some conferences, we believed it was a better option than canceling the whole day and having to make it up in June.
In the future, any time inclement weather requires a late start on a day that has been previously scheduled for early release, we will cancel the early release and run classes until the regular dismissal time.
Last spring, the Ferndale School District received a school website accessibility complaint from OCR, the Office for Civil Rights. We subsequently learned that school districts and other educational agencies across the country have been similarly notified that their websites are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.
The complaint brought to light issues that we were not aware we were neglecting. We learned that school websites – just like other parts of our school campuses – need to be accessible for everyone. We learned that some of the most universal problems are lack of appropriate tagging of pictures and closed captioning of videos, insufficient color contrast, and failure to properly label online forms.
In August, we began taking steps to make all our websites – at the district level and at each school -- more responsive and more accessible to all our audiences. This was a complex process that involved rebuilding each site from the ground up. We contracted with a company called Campus Suite to help us do this work. With their assistance and support, we were able to go live with our new ADA-compliant websites on Friday, November 3. Users may have noticed changes in the appearance of our websites.
We want every student, staff member, parent, and member of the school community at large to be able to utilize fully all the important content on our website. Therefore, we are pleased to have been able to make these necessary improvements.
Currently, we are in the process of training key staff on making sure all future website posts are fully accessible as well.
One of the many winter events we planned last year that was foiled by inclement weather was a holiday-themed community sing-a-long. So, we are going to try again this year.
On Wednesday, December 20 (the day after students are dismissed for Winter Break), the district will be hosting a community holiday event from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at Ferndale High School. During the first 90 minutes of the event (5:30-7:00), we are inviting parents to drop off elementary-age students to participate in playing games and decorating cookies while Mom and Dad use the time to shop, hopefully locally, since we are partnering with the Chamber’s “Shop Local” campaign.
At 7:00 pm, parents can bring their gifts back to FHS to take advantage of wrapping services and also to take part in a community sing-along in the FHS gym.
All of these events will be free to the participants.
The first meeting of Ferndale School District’s Bond Task Force was held on Tuesday, October 24, 2017. Approximately 40 people attended, about one-third district staff and two-thirds community members.
Membership on the Bond Task Force is voluntary. For the past four months, we have published information in various formats through various venues inviting people to take part. We intentionally reached out to community members, since they have historically been an underrepresented voice. The people who showed up at the first meeting were those who responded to the invitation.
All Bond Task Force meetings are open to the public.
Ferndale School District is committed to offering every member of our community a safe, welcoming, and inclusive experience. When we fall short of this ideal, we need help in bringing problems to our attention. When someone experiences something that offends or insults, whether it was intentional or unintentional, there are three groups of district staff who are always ready to listen and address concerns: (1) our building principals and assistant principals, (2) our school counselors, and (3) our district office staff (see contact information below).
When we learn about specific incidents that do not meet our standards, we respond. Usually, we begin by collecting as much background information as possible, typically engaging those involved in thoughtful dialogue so that we can better understand how their words or actions may have been inappropriate or hurtful. If the problem is complicated or the behavior is repetitive, we can assign formal retraining. If this does not resolve the problem, we can elevate the case to include some type of formal discipline. This would be true for staff as well as students.
As an example, a parent recently shared with us her concerns about a PTO fundraising message that included as an incentive the school principal’s “becoming an Eskimo and sitting on blocks of ice for 10 minutes.” The parent rightfully deemed this characterization as perpetuating racial stereotypes, oppressive behaviors, and cultural appropriation. The immediate reaction from the school principal (on behalf of both himself and the PTO), the president of the School Board, and the superintendent was to acknowledge the blunder, apologize, and began to apply corrective action. The principal’s responses to the parent included the following statements:
I completely agree with you that this should have never gone out as it is. I will be working with our PTO today to amend the literature and ensure that the rewards that are earned meet a high standard of cultural sensitivity. Please feel free to contact me directly anytime you have concerns. When we all work together, we can do our very best for our children. I apologize that we fell short in this instance and I assure you it will be rectified today.
Thanks again for alerting me that this had gone home so we could fix it. I am sorry that you had to, but glad that you did. I invite you to join our PTO and get involved, as we could really use your perspective and your help. Once again, please accept my apology for any hurt that we caused.
As noted above, our organization is fully committed to honoring, celebrating, and embracing our diverse community. This is a long-term effort that we take very seriously, knowing that we have not yet arrived. We work with all our buildings and departments regularly to build knowledge and understanding about our students’ cultural backgrounds and ways we can serve and elevate them. We monitor programs and student performance to address opportunity and achievement gaps (see our District Improvement Plan) in an effort to provide every child in our care with the highest levels of learning. Finally, we work to engage the broader community in this critical work through events such as our annual Culture Fair.
Linda Quinn, Superintendent, 360.383.9207
Mark Deebach, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Support Services, 360.383.9203
Scott Brittain, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning, 360.383.9210
Mark Hall, Executive Director for Teaching & Learning, 360.383.9211
Jill Iwasaki, Executive Director for Student Services, 360.383.9221
Paul Douglas, Executive Director for Human Resources, 360.383.9206
At the beginning of this school year, we experienced a number of issues with our district instructional technology. Recently, however, our technology is working better in most classrooms and throughout the district.
The district hired a new technology support vendor in late summer, so we anticipated some challenges with our conversion protocols. When we decided to upgrade our Microsoft Office products on 2500 student devices, which we were deploying during the first two weeks of school, we encountered our first major issue. The upgraded Microsoft Office program conflicted with the product that was previously installed on the devices, thereby essentially “crashing” the entire Microsoft Office Suite. In an attempt to repair the problems, we had to slow the network down to inoperable speeds for a period of time, which definitely created a hardship.
In the end, the problem was solved, but not before our entire district was impacted.
Since we recovered from the Microsoft issue, we have been working hard to provide daily service in a more timely fashion. We have not experienced further network or application issues of any great consequence. While we continue to have some “growing” pains with our new service provider, our technology support program is getting better every day.
When we received feedback that the Print Shop was not performing at a level that matched staff expectations, we sought anecdotal information and asked for samples of jobs that were not completed as expected. Staff was very good about providing specific examples, as well as sample jobs, that we were able to pass along to the Print Shop.
Our second step was to conduct a survey open to all staff to get more quantitative information about how the Print Shop was performing and to inform us of specific areas that needed improvement.
We then shared survey results and sample jobs with Ricoh management staff. Ricoh (the vendor who is overseeing this initiative) committed to develop a plan that would get the Print Shop performing at a level that matched our expectations. The action steps they came up with are outlined below in the message from Ricoh’s Print Shop Manager.
Ricoh staff have collaborated on implementing action items that we believe will improve the performance of the Print Shop by addressing concerns about accuracy and timeliness. In the meantime, district staff have stepped in to help complete both printing jobs and the corrective action items they could take care of themselves.
Ferndale Print Shop production improvements and actions developed by Ricoh in early October 2017 include:
- Tyler (Print Shop Manager) returned to work September 29. At that time, there were 56 jobs in the production queue representing 12,619 impressions. We are keeping up with current job flow.
- Kevin will work on site Wednesday afternoons until further notice.
- We will train a new FSR for the site.
- We will work with Mark Deebach on re-appropriating teacher device(s) to prevent production equipment backup.
- We will add the capability of an instructor-accessed device to 3-hole punch and staple.
- We will better organize the space to reduce clutter and define specific work areas: production prep, in production, quality check, pick-up/delivery.
- We will use a checklist system for quality control.
- We will continue to work with instructors to plan and have their academic materials printed well in advance of need, especially projects requiring considerable prep to print, such as scanning and assembly of files or other documents.
- We will continue to train instructors on how to use the PrintNet tool through Lunch & Learn presentations and other meetings. This can be done in a one-on-one setting as well.
- We will add a second employee, starting with part time if necessary.
- Per the item above, we will stagger shifts when volume dictates.
- With the assistance of a second employee, we will implement a quality control process involving one person’s reviewing the other person’s work.
The district’s next step will be to conduct a follow-up survey to make sure the performance of the Print Center is improving.
When concerns about using actors with simulated injuries in the Iron Viking exercise were brought to our attention, we decided to offer two variations of the training. In addition to the originally planned moulage version, we added a non-moulage version, giving staff members a choice about which they would attend.
The non-moulage training was conducted in the Vista library and focused on a review of the first aid techniques taught in the TICS (Teacher Initiated Care System) class that staff attended last spring, as opposed to the practical application of the techniques during the Iron Viking simulated emergency situation.
Feedback was positive about offering the two variants of the training exercise, and members of both groups reported worthwhile benefits from their experiences.
When the district recognized the need to augment the gravel under and around the playground equipment at Eagleridge Elementary, our Maintenance Department tilled the existing gravel and filled in with some additional gravel, After this process had been completed, we were informed that several screws had been found in the gravel. The area of the Eagleridge playground impacted by this problem was closed to children, while the district maintenance crew used shovels, rakes, and magnets to locate and remove the screws. We believe the problem has been eradicated. The Health Department has also assessed the Eagleridge playground and verified that it is free from any unwanted debris.
This fall we found evidence of a rat in the Culinary Arts room at Ferndale High School. Personnel from the District Maintenance Department responded by locating the probable entrance point being used by the rat, setting out traps, monitoring them closely, ultimately capturing and removing the rodent, and continuing to monitor for any rodent friends. At this point, they have patched all the holes they have detected that might be used for critters to gain access to the building. They are implementing best practices regarding non-chemical pest control and continuing to watch the situation closely, taking all necessary actions to ensure our high school building remains free of rodents.
The Custer playground is mostly, but not completely, fenced. This past fall, a parent asked whether the fence could be repaired and extended. The Custer principal also identified this as a need. Therefore, we took the request to our new Director of Maintenance, Jamie Plenkovich, who committed to moving forward to get this work done. He immediately went to the campus to assess the situation and then scheduled Northwest Fence to come out and give him a bid on October 12. We anticipate we will have the Custer fence project completed by the end of the current calendar year.
A district staff member who was learning the ins and outs of our complex student data management system believed she was working in a practice mode. She was not. As a result, she inadvertently sent out a batch of practice email letters to real families. The letter in question, which happened to be written in Spanish, informed the families that their children did not have up-to-date immunization records on file with the school district and were thus in jeopardy of being excluded from school as per Washington State Law. Understandably, this caused distress in the parents who erroneously received the letters.
The district staff member responsible for the mistake felt terrible about it, although we assured her that we understood her error was neither malicious nor a reflection of her competence. Mistakes are a part of the learning process, a fact that is foundational to our core business as educators.
At the same time, we are very sorry that we caused needless worry to some of our families. As a district, our response to these families included the following:
- We sent a notification to all district families via our student information system and district Facebook page letting them know we had made this mistake and apologizing for it.
- We identified the specific families who had mistakenly received the letter in question and sent them a written explanation and an apology both in English and in Spanish.
- We adjusted our training protocols to prevent this kind of error from happening in the future.
The district takes several steps to ensure volunteers have been vetted. First, as a basic precaution, all volunteers are screened using the WATCH (Washington Access to Criminal History).
If a volunteer is chaperoning an overnight activity where he/she is supervising students through the night, we also require that he/she submits to a fingerprint screen, which allows for in an in-depth criminal background check through the national data base. Chaperones for high school overnight trips, where students are paired together in hotel rooms and chaperones have their own rooms, do not require fingerprinting.
When the district discovers that a volunteer has a criminal history, we conduct a review to determine the type of offense, the date when the incident occurred, and whether the incident involved children. Not every offense is deemed sufficient reason to deny a person the opportunity to volunteer.
However, any volunteer with a criminal background is required to disclose this on his/her volunteer application. Failure to disclose could result in disqualification from volunteering. When a potential volunteer does not disclose, he/she may be contacted and given the opportunity to provide further information.
The district maintains a database to keep track of all volunteers. This year we have moved to requiring all volunteers update their information annually to ensure our records are accurate and current.
Starting on August 16, 2017, the district sent out the first letters to parents whose students were on the free or reduced meal program during the 2016-2017 school year.
In August, Food Service Staff attended school meetings in order to answer questions about the application process as follows: Vista open house on August 31, Community outreach night at Horizon on August 29, Orientation for Freshmen and Upperclassmen at FHS on August 29 and 30, Custer Ice Cream Social on September 5.
In August, a reminder notice was posted on the District Food Services webpage that the free and reduced applications were being accepted and were due on October 18. In addition, hard copies of the reminder and application were made available at the student’s school. Families were informed that they could submit their applications online or on paper.
On the first day of school, every elementary school student received a hard copy of the free and reduced application along with a letter containing instructions for filing out the application.
Another set of letters (approximately 400 this year) were mailed between October 7 and October 9 to families who had previously had students qualify for the program but had not yet filed out a new application.
On October 10, an automated phone call was placed to all households in the district stating:
If your family is on the free and reduced meal program and you have not submitted a new application for the School Year 2017-2018, please do so prior to October 16, 2017. Last year's applications will expire on October 18, and after that date your child or children will no longer have benefits for free or reduced meals unless you reapply. The cost of any meals incurred by your child/children will be your responsibility.
October 24, approximately 150 letters were mailed to households that qualified for the program last year and did not submit a new application prior to the October 18 deadline.
We are continuing to accept applications at any time. There are no time restrictions on when new applications can be accepted. Unfortunately, charges incurred prior to the new eligibility are still the responsibility of the parent since the date of the eligibility is not retroactive.
Whenever we receive an anonymous complaint or concern, we assess the content and follow up on anything related to the safety of our students, staff, or families. However, anonymous complaints are more difficult to deal with because they do not allow us to get the whole story, even though there is generally more than one side to a controversy. Our goals are to address wrong-doing and solve problems to the greatest extent possible. When the information we are working with is anonymous, and therefore one-sided, we feel hampered in our ability to achieve these goals.
Anonymous messages are harder to investigate because we are limited to whatever information was submitted. We do not have the ability to follow up or ask clarifying questions.
We encourage people to submit complaints with their identity known so we can work collaboratively with them to address concerns. The district has a zero tolerance policy regarding retaliation, because we do not want fear of reprisal to dampen anyone’s willingness to report wrongdoing.
Over the last 15 years, the celebration of Halloween has been gradually phased out of schools across the United States for a number of reasons. In the Ferndale School District we have chosen to minimize rather than eliminate the impact of Halloween and other holidays on the school and classroom environment as part of our ongoing effort to stay focused on our core mission of educating all students.
On the other hand, where there is a clear overlap between what is happening in our community and the curriculum we deliver to our students, we make every effort to highlight and build upon those connections. This could mean that our younger students who are learning about calendars and celebrations would make reference to Halloween in books or art projects. It could also mean that different afterschool groups choose to offer activities that are tied to a particular holiday such as Halloween.
With all that being said, there are two primary reasons why the Ferndale School District has deliberately moved away from allowing Halloween costumes and parties in our classrooms during the school day: (1) To preserve and protect limited time for instruction pointed directly at the state learning standards. (2) To follow our district’s food policy, which limits sharing food in classrooms because of nutrition and food allergy concerns.
The law is still very new and interpretations about how it is to be implemented are still somewhat vague. We anticipate over the course of the next year, the specific impacts will become more clear. With that said, we offer the following answer to this question based on what we know at this point.
During the last legislative session, the Washington State Legislature passed what has commonly been referred to as a “levy swap,” which means they renamed the local M & O (Maintenance & Operations) levy money that the Ferndale taxpayers voted to pay through their property taxes as state levy money. In other words, we are talking about the same money (from local property taxes), but in the future it will be considered state money as opposed to local money. In addition to this “swap,” the state will be allowing individual school districts to run local levies (as soon as their current ones expire) for a smaller amount to fund the “extra” items that are not part of the state’s definition of basic education (such as art, music, and a large portion of special education).
The new state levy replaces the old local levy at a reduced dollar amount.
There will be a new smaller local levy so that we can continue to fund programs that the state does not include in its definition of basic education.
It should be noted that a capital bond, which is also funded from property taxes, is a separate standalone proposition which is not covered by the new legislation pertaining to school levies.
Like FFA and DECA, Jazz Band at the middle school level in Ferndale is a co-curricular program that occurs outside the regular school day. It is not a class. As such, we need to recruit an advisor/coach to run the activity. In the past, the middle school band director, who was a veteran with lots of experience, took on this extra duty.
We have allocated a stipend to continue the middle school Jazz Band program, and we have advertised for an advisor through our Extracurricular Coaching and Advising selection process. We are hopeful we will be able to find someone who is able and willing to take on this extra task so that we can continue to offer the program.
Less than half of the country’s public schools employ a full-time nurse. In most school districts, including Ferndale, nurses rotate among schools,
This situation isn’t new. The majority of Washington schools have never had full-time nurses. When budgets tightened heading into the Great Recession of the early 2000s, many districts were faced with hard choices between maintaining lower class sizes and keeping nurses, counselors, librarians, and other certificated support staff.
As it stands now, each Washington school district decides how to utilize its nurses in much the same way it determine how many teachers are needed — by enrollment and budget. That usually means a school nurse might work in more than one building, with a trained staff or volunteer available for certain duties when the nurse is out.
According to data maintained by OSPI, only one of Washington’s 295 school districts (Shoreline) has committed to assigning one full-time nurse to each of its schools. However, unlike Ferndale and most other school districts who classify nurses as certificated employees similar to teachers and counselors, Shoreline categorizes nurses as classified employees, in the same category as instructional assistants, cafeteria workers and bus drivers, and they are thus subject to a different pay scale.
Across the country, you are more likely to find students of color than staff members of color in our public schools. The diversity of the educational workforce does not represent the diversity of the children they serve. Recent statistics show 40% of the nation’s students are students of color, while people of color make up only 17% of all teachers and principals.
The current composition of the Ferndale School District reflects this disproportionality. However, under the leadership of Dr. Paul Douglas, we are taking steps to close the gap. We have, for instance, rewritten our interview questions to focus on candidates’ strengths and highlight differences. We are working to build stronger relationships with colleges and universities, and we are offering more internships with the goal of attracting more diversity. We are supporting alternative routes to certification for some of our classified staff members. We are keeping data and regularly tracking our progress in this area.
In addition to monitoring data about our workforce for our own use, Dr. Douglas reports annually on the make-up of our employee groups to OSPI. Some recent statistics look promising. The percentage of administrators of color in Ferndale has risen from 0% to nearly 10% in the last two years. According to county utilization data, we have a higher than average percentage of teachers of color at both the elementary and the secondary levels.
Diversifying our workforce matters to us. Without educators who represent the students they serve, we aren’t going to get the best results from our school systems. Greater diversity will sharpen our competitive advantage and improve our organizational performance. In recognition of the School Board’s fourth Strategic Commitment (to honor, celebrate, and embrace our diverse community), we are committed to achieving a more diverse staff in Ferndale’s schools.
As is the practice in most school districts, the Ferndale School Board evaluates the performance of the Ferndale Superintendent annually and then takes an official vote on whether to renew her contract.
This year, Superintendent Quinn’s evaluation was conducted in an executive session before the July 25 School Board meeting. For this purpose, Dr. Quinn prepared a report on the accomplishments and shortcomings of her work during the previous year, which the Board received and reviewed in advance.
During the executive session, which Dr. Quinn did not attend, School Board members discussed her performance. At the open public meeting following the executive session, they voted unanimously to renew her contract. They also voted unanimously to give her a 2% raise.
By law, a superintendent’s contract in the state of Washington cannot exceed three years in duration. However, when the members of a School Board renew such a contract, they have the option of restarting the three-year period. This option was exercised by the Ferndale School Board when they approved a new contract for Dr. Quinn for 2017 through 2020
In September, a letter about a sexually transmitted disease was inadvertently sent home with elementary students. This was a mistake on the part of the school district, and we are taking steps to ensure it does not happen again.
Most of the information the district provides to students and parents is generated within the district. However, some information the state or federal government requires the district to provide students and parents. The letter in question was among the latter. The state requires us to send the letter to all 6-12 grade students and/or their parents.
The letter was included in a packet of beginning-of-the-year information sent electronically by the superintendent’s office to all district principals for distribution. The letter should only have been sent to secondary principals. At several of our elementary schools, the mistake was caught before the information went home. Some elementary schools sent the information electronically to parents, so students never had access to it. At one or two elementary schools, the information, including the letter on sexually transmitted disease, was printed and sent home in backpacks where students were able to see it and possibly read it.
To ensure this kind of mistake does not happen again, we are:
- more carefully scrutinizing information sent from the superintendents’ office to schools in order to make sure it is age appropriate; and
- asking the principals and administrative assistants in our schools to double check everything before sending it home.
We apologize for any distress caused by our mistake.
The district covers all normal wear and tear on the computers they provide to students and all accidental damage that occurs at school. However, students’ families are responsible for computers that are lost or damaged due to vandalism, exceptional roughness, or inappropriate use. This is no different than age-old practices regarding school textbooks.
In many cases, school computers damaged at home are covered by parents’ homeowners’ insurance. However, generally such policies carry a significant deductible. Therefore, some parents asked the school district to look for an inexpensive insurance policy that just covered a student’s computer.
We looked and we found one. For $46 per year, families can purchase computer insurance with zero deductible that will cover anything that might happen to the device, regardless of whose fault it is. Parents are not required to purchase this insurance. It is offered as a service.
The first meeting of the Bond Task Force is scheduled for Tuesday, October 24, 7:00-9:00 pm at Ferndale High School.
On September 25, Mark Deebach sent out the following letter of invitation to everyone who volunteered to serve on the Task Force:
Thank you for volunteering to be part of the Ferndale School District’s Bond Task Force. We are encouraged by your interest and look forward to collaborating with you on this important work.
We have spent the summer searching for the right facilitator to help guide us through the process of developing a bond package, and we have narrowed the field to three finalists. We will be meeting with all three during the next two weeks and selecting one in time to have him or her on board for our first meeting.
We have scheduled the first meeting of the Bond Task Force for Tuesday, October 24, 7:00-9:00 pm in the Ferndale High School Library.
Once again, please accept our gratitude for your willingness to take part in this critical school district/community project. We anticipate an educational and enjoyable experience with positive outcomes for the children of Ferndale.
We look forward to getting started on October 24. Please let us know if you will be able to attend. RSVP to Tammy Longstaff at email@example.com.
If you know someone else who would like to participate, let Tammy know that as well. Or if you have any other questions or concerns before October 24, please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here we go…
During the public comment section of the August 29 Ferndale School Board meeting, a community member reported being told by a colleague at work that he didn’t want to participate on district committees or task forces because when he came to a meeting of the Facilities Committee, he was required to sign a non-disclosure document declaring that he would not to share the content of discussions at committee meetings with the public and that he would support the recommendations of the majority even if he did not agree with them. He said he was not comfortable signing something that didn’t support clear, honest, and open dialogue with the community so he quit participating on the committee.
After researching this concern, we determined that the document in question is a Social Contract that was developed by members of the Facilities Advisory Committee. At an early meeting of the FAC in 2010, the committee’s facilitator asked all participants to engage in a process of developing some mutual understandings about how the committee would operate.
- She began by asking several questions, such as: What kind of environment do you need to be able to work effectively? In your opinion, how does a good committee function? What do you think we should do when we disagree? And so on.
- Everyone shared thoughts, which were recorded and compiled.
- A draft document was taken back to the group for discussion and revision.
- Participants were asked if their ideas had been captured correctly and revisions were made accordingly.
- When committee members felt a good draft reflecting their combined ideas had been achieved, they were asked to indicate their approval by signing around the edge of the “final” document.
We have used this Social Contract process with many of our groups. The School Board has created its own Social Contract, as has the Administrative Team. The School Board chose at one time to put their Social Contract on a poster and all sign it.
The guidelines on the resulting FAC Social Contract came from group members, not from the district. The items that have anything to do with sharing or not sharing information, or with supporting a position whether or not you agree with it, are as follows:
- Be honest and open-minded.
- Try to put personal agendas aside to focus on the common good.
- Try not to take opinions and decisions contrary to our own as personal affronts.
- Do not be afraid to question data that is presented, and do not be offended if your data is questioned.
- Seek inclusive processes for collecting input and feedback.
- Honor requests for confidentiality when they are made.
- Avoid dominating conversations or debates.
- Work for the good of all students, not just those we most closely represent.
- Allow for differences of opinion.
- When making major decisions, allow for both majority and minority reports.
- When reporting out decisions, avoid ascribing them to individual committee members unless there is an explicitly agreed upon reason for doing so.
- Once a decision has been made, honor and support it in public spaces.
The entire Facilities Advisory Committee Social Contract is attached at the end of this document.