School district bond clears first step

Published on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 by Ian Ferguson

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Blaine school district is moving forward in planning a $45 million bond for capital improvements after the school board gave the nod at its regular meeting June 23.

Short of formal approval of the bond initiative, the action puts the initiative on the agenda for the board’s August 25 meeting.

“With tonight’s action, we would have the green light to start the planning process and continue gathering more details,” superintendent Ron Spanjer said.

Spanjer and operations supervisor Jim Kenoyer showed board members a visual of the proposed projects included in the bond initiative. The facility review task force, an ad-hoc committee that spent the past school year reviewing the facility needs of the district, drafted the recommendations. The largest project is a 72,000-square-foot addition to the high school.

A full outline of the projects in the bond initiative can be found online at tinyurl.com/bsdbond. The district is seeking public comments, which can be submitted by emailing businessmanager@blainesd.org or by calling the superintendent’s office at 360/332-5881. Voters in the district could see the bond on a ballot in February 2015.

Board members wrapped up other business matters at the meeting, which was the last of the 2013/14 school year.

In other district news, the board approved hiring Cabe Vander Yacht as assistant principal at the middle school. Vander Yacht has been a middle school special education teacher in Blaine for the last eight years. He will begin his new role on Tuesday, July 1.

Next year up to 200 students will be involved in a math pilot program that uses digital whiteboards in place of textbooks. Called Agile Minds, the curriculum is aligned to Common Core standards and will be given a trial year in all sections of Algebra 2 and one section each of Algebra 1 and Geometry.

“A major benefit is that any curriculum changes would be automatically updated on an annual basis without having to buy new textbooks,” said Stacy Thomas, executive director of teaching and learning.

The subscription-based program costs $9,700 per year.

“On a relative scale, that’s a fairly reasonable cost. You saw some projected numbers in the spring for other math adoptions in the $100,000-200,000 range,” Spanjer said.

Amber Porter, director of finance and operations, reported that the 2014/15 budget would be available for public review on Thursday, July 10, with a public hearing scheduled for the July 28 regular meeting.

The school board approved the addition of two math classes that give students college credit through Everett Community College’s College in the Classroom program. Students can earn 10 college credits by taking pre-calculus and five college credits by taking math in society. Both classes will be taught at Blaine High School next year.

Running Start, a similar program offered through Whatcom Community College, requires students to travel to Bellingham.

“It’s appealing to keep the students here and earning college credit,” board member Charles Gibson said.

The board also approved a revised calendar for next school year that includes nine late start days. The two-hour-late starts would occur on Mondays spread throughout the year to allow for staff training in new state requirements.

“These requirements come without funding, so we have to find creative ways to make sure students don’t lose instructional time,” Spanjer said. “We’ve worked really hard to do that, and in fact we’ve added a significant amount of instructional time to grades K-5.”