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Friday, May 29, 2020

Sehome High School renovations near completion

Sehome High School’s construction is ongoing and is expected to be completed by the end of this semester. // Photo by Jaden Moon

By Anjali LeGrand

Sehome High School is currently in the process of its first major construction project since its founding in the late 1960s, after years of surviving with outdated facilities.

The new addition is being built alongside the old building and will include a two-floor layout. Turf and synthetic fields and a central kitchen are also among the construction plans, according to the Bellingham Public Schools website. 

Currently, Sehome is comprised of several buildings for different purposes and departments. Students must travel outside to get to-and-from classes, which Smith said creates issues in terms of both weather and safety concerns for students.

Communications Manager for Bellingham Public Schools Dana Smith said she is looking forward to the open spaces which will allow for natural light and more places for students to gather. Smith knows the old building well as she was an English and journalism teacher at Sehome for 16 years before taking on her current position in June 2018.

“My classroom was downstairs, and if the blinds were closed because it was cold outside, it was like a cave,” Smith said.

The Bellingham School District’s Facilities Planning Task Force assesses overall structural issues, adherence to energy codes and accessibility.

“Functionally, people often joked about the school being a ‘Southern California’ design since there was a significant number of classrooms you could only get to by going outside,” Sehome High School alumnus Ben Wilson said via email. “This type of design isn’t ideal for an area of the world that seems to rain about 200 days of the year.”

In order to get the construction plan to a place of action, the process began with an evaluation by the Facilities Planning Taskforce. The taskforce is an open application group, which looked at the facilities and created a list of recommendations in 2013. The rebuilding of the high school was at the top of the list, Smith said.

Avery Bahr worked as a project engineer for six months during his two year career with Dawson Construction, the company working on the Sehome High construction. Bahr said in an email that the project was in pre-construction stages for over a year.

“The project is large and complicated, but ultimately will provide a much-needed new school for the students of Sehome High School,” Bahr said.

The new building is scheduled to be finished around the end of this semester, after which students will move out of the current building and into the new one and the old building will be demolished. The rest of the construction plans, including updating the fields, will be worked on in the spring, Smith said.

Wilson, who last visited Sehome’s campus when construction first began, said the new building could lend itself to a change in attitude toward learning.

“A school is the people, so I think the best thing a building can do is just facilitate the people being a community,” Smith said.

After a long wait, Sehome High School will be able to host its own major events, such as graduation ceremonies.

“Sehome has always done its graduation at either Western or Squalicum because they didn’t have a big enough gym,” Smith said. “So the class of 2019 gets to graduate in their own school.”

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