Why are voters being asked to fund a $4M expansion of eight classrooms to the primary school on the Blaine campus when the 2010 U.S. Census for Birch Bay records a population of 8,413, growing 70 percent since 2000? Blaine grew 42 percent to a population of 4,684 in 2010.
Over the last 20 years, the increase in the number of children ages 0–17 in Birch Bay has grown over three times that of Blaine – 1,217 to 368. Projected population growth over the next 20 years reflects similar numbers. Approximately 60 percent of the 2,004 students in the Blaine school district come from the Birch Bay area.
The existing Blaine school district facilities do not reflect the realities of where the students live. More importantly, the residents of Birch Bay are not being properly represented or served. Eight additional classrooms added to the primary school on the Blaine campus will simply delay addressing the need for a school in Birch Bay. How long will Birch Bay students continue to spend hours on a school bus being transported to the northern periphery of the school district?
All day kindergarten classes would be welcome in Birch Bay!
We are a licensed foster family with three biological and one foster child. We worked really hard to get licensed and had to make some ridiculous accommodations to technically comply with the rules. Now there is a new Washington Administrative Code (WAC) requiring that foster families get the flu shot every year, while oddly enough social workers, visit transporters, biological parents and the foster kids themselves are not required to get the vaccine. This makes no sense.
For those of us with placements, it is a wonderful journey, but not one that comes without a price. The stress and frustration with the system takes its toll every day. Sometimes we wonder if it is even worth it; then we see these kids flourish before our eyes and realize that it is. However, when new requirements are adopted that go against our own beliefs, and especially ones that only we have to follow, it gets frustrating.
We welcome kids into our homes with lice, scabies, behavior issues and zero immunizations, and we are now required to get the flu vaccine, which is only 23 percent effective this year. If any group of people were going to be the most burdened, you would think it should not be the ones volunteering their time, energy and good parenting skills to help others.
Our family has already informed our licensor that we will not be getting the flu vaccination nor will we be voluntarily amending our license to exclude ages 0–24 months. We have been told the department will change our age range against our wishes for non-compliance.
Where will all these kids go? Why are we wasting resources for licensors to check each family every year instead of spending their time licensing new homes? If we lose even one foster home because of this new WAC, we have failed these kids. If one new home does not get licensed because the already maxed-out licensors have to go back and check for the flu vaccination in licensed homes instead of doing new home studies, we have failed these kids.
If voters approve the 20-year $45 million capital bond initiative on February 10, the taxpayers of the school district will have contributed $82 million since 1992 for the school property, facilities and infrastructure in Blaine. Zero capital bond tax dollars have been spent in Birch Bay for school property, infrastructure or facilities.
A significant population shift has occurred over the past 20 years in the Blaine school district. Currently 60 percent of the students in Blaine schools come from the Birch Bay area. According to Blaine school district superintendent Ron Spanjer, the projected enrollment at Blaine school district was expected to increase by 600 students in the last decade, but actual enrollment numbers have gone down since the 2004–05 school year, from 2,235 to 2,120. That represents a decline for some of the district but not for Birch Bay.
In the last decade, according to the U.S. Census, a significant population increase of 660 children occurred in Birch Bay compared to an increase of three children in Blaine. Basically, the growth in the number of children in Birch Bay has kept the Blaine school district from having a much larger decrease in the number of children it serves over the last 20 years.
Birch Bay pays the highest contribution to the school district capital bond in local tax dollars. Approximate percentages of tax contributions to the capital bond in 2014 include: Birch Bay – 36 percent; city of Blaine – 24 percent; Point Roberts – 16 percent; rural county (including BP) – 24 percent. (Tax information calculated from the Whatcom County Annual Tax Book.)
In an article last week’s The Northern Light regarding the bond issue, superintendent Spanjer, Blaine City Council and city manager Dave Wilbrecht all agreed that beside the educational benefits there might be some real economic benefit because quality schools and facilities tend to draw business and growth to the area.
Businesses coming in want to see what’s going on with schools in their community. So far, nothing is going on with schools in the Birch Bay community. It’s time for the Blaine school district to begin to invest tax dollars in the Birch Bay community for these very same reasons.
As a member of the business community, I heartily endorse the upcoming bond election for our school district on February 10.
Because this is a replacement bond and not an additional tax we should wholeheartedly vote for its passage. Our tax rate will stay the same. The passage of this bond would enable us to construct a new high school, upgrade security, provide much-needed space for cafeteria needs and new space for the mandated all-day kindergarten.
This is now the time. Let us move forward to provide for the next generation of Blaine students.
Vote yes on February 10.
Joy Monjure is running for one of five board positions of the Whatcom Conservation District, currently held by Larry Helm. Monjure entered the race because she believes the conservation district is poised to play a significant role in natural resource management challenges that threaten the health, culture, economy and quality of life in Whatcom County. Although we have made progress towards salmon recovery, we still have a long way to go in improving habitat conditions. Shellfish harvest areas continue to close due to worsening water quality.
Climate changes are expected to drive a significant migration of “climate refugees” to the Pacific Northwest. This growth has the potential to degrade our natural systems and change the very character of our community.
Monjure has worked with the conservation district over the past 30 years as a member of the Everson City Council, a local landowner and in her role as education and communication coordinator with the public works department of the city of Bellingham, providing resident and student education on water quality and quantity. She was an active member of Whatcom Watersheds Information Network (WWIN), a collaboration of local educators dedicated to watershed education.
The conservation district election process is unique and somewhat cumbersome. All registered voters in Whatcom County are eligible to vote. Voters must request an absentee ballot by February 9 at 4 p.m., either by filling out the request form on the district website, whatcomcd.org or by calling the district office at 360/526-2381, ext. 5. Absentee ballots must be returned to the Whatcom Conservation District office or postmarked no later than March 10 at 6 p.m.
Alternatively, those wishing to vote in person can go the Whatcom Conservation District office at 6975 Hannegan Road, Lynden (at Pole Road) on March 10 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to cast their ballot.
Several ballots were rejected during the last election because the information did not match what was on the individual’s voter registration card. Voters must be sure the voter information on their cards is up to date and that their ballots match the card.
Along with our school district, I celebrate paying off our great Performing Arts Center, the gymnasium and the science building. It’s good to have those bonds paid off. But now there is a need to redo the high school. This will be a dramatic improvement that will bring the high school up to date as well as accommodate the 650 students who are now crowded into a school built for 350. There are also many repair and maintenance items that need attention and programs that need to be updated to enable our excellent school system to continue providing the best education we can to our students.
The teachers care about our kids, the kids work hard and we have very supportive parents behind them all. It is imperative that we provide the financial resources to keep this high standard. Our Blaine school tax is the lowest in the county and the new bond we are being asked to approve will be no more than the one that is ending.
Those who are suggesting that we vote against the bond because there is no school planned for Birch Bay disturb me. That is an ongoing issue that the school board is well aware of and will continue to consider. But to not support the school our children are now attending would only make that prospect move further into the future. I urge all of us to vote yes to invest in our students – the future of our society.
You and I pay to have our garbage picked up. You and I pay sewer fees to the wastewater treatment plant to clean our wastewater. Companies that produce waste and pollute our air, water and land to operate their businesses should pay to have their garbage and waste cleaned up too.
Washington state established goals in 2008 for limits on greenhouse gas emissions. To meet those requirements, Governor Inslee has proposed a cap and trade program modeled on other successful programs in California, New England and Europe. The program is basically a system to charge the polluters for polluting. The revenue would go directly to our ailing transportation, education systems and social safety net.
A recent Elway poll of citizens of Washington found 71 percent support Governor Inslee’s proposal. After all, it makes sense that we are responsible for cleaning up our own mess. That should include everyone.
Editor’s note: This is the last issue in which letters will run in the print edition regarding the school district bond election. Letters received before the election will be posted on thenorthernlight.com as they are received.