FERNDALE - Big changes are on the way at Ferndale School District, with the biggest being the closure of Mountain View Elementary at the end of the 2012-13 school year.
The school board voted in April to close the school at the end of this school year as a cost-saving measure. A district task force is working to change school boundaries to absorb the loss.
Officials are trying to put a positive spin on the closure so students will look forward to the next school year, no matter where they go.
"First things first, we want to have a really great year," said Mountain View Principal Georgia Dellinger. "When it's your last year, we want to just really do our programs and our kids proud by having it be a special year."
Staff members have been looking for books and other materials that can help students see change as a good thing. One of their favorites so far: "Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes."
Pete starts the story with a new pair of white shoes, but as he walks and steps in strawberries, blueberries and other messes, they change color. He goes with the flow and loves the shoes no matter how they change. It's a moral that Dellinger hopes the kids can appreciate.
"One of the little guys in first grade said, 'Oh, I get it. Even though Mountain View is going to close, we should all just keep walking along and singing our song,'" she said. "He got it."
School officials hope to hold reunion-type events for the school throughout the year, though plans aren't yet certain. Dellinger said she would like to hear suggestions from the public on the best way to honor the last year of the school, which has been open more than 50 years.
"We want to celebrate who we are and who we've been. We are a community, we have an identity, and we want to keep that alive this year," she said. "We're not going to move on before we move on. We're going to celebrate what we have as a school."
The district has four task forces planning the transition after Mountain View closes. Task forces are focusing on school boundary changes, staff reassignments, moving Mountain View's well-regarded special education program, and redesigning the district's middle schools to accommodate sixth-graders, who have been housed at elementary schools.
"I think the whole district is going to be experiencing the results of the groups as they work," said Superintendent Linda Quinn.
The district's goal is to figure out new school boundaries first and have them ready to show the public by November, Quinn said. The district will host open houses to make sure people know what changes are being made.
"People want to know where their kids are going to end up, where programs will end up," Dellinger said. "It's going to be easier once everyone understands what their destiny is."
At district elementary schools, administrators are working to make the end of this school year special for fifth-graders and sixth-graders before they leave elementary school.
In the second half of the school year, staff should know where they will be moving and can start working on their own transition.
Quinn said she's been through such changes elsewhere.
"We just keep reminding ourselves that we're one big schoolhouse with different wings," she said. "It's all good. It's just going to be a lot of change to make it work.
We're very confident and excited," Quinn said. "When you have the opportunity to make some changes, you can make everything stronger."
This likely will be the last full school year for Meridian School District's Irene Reither Primary School. Come the 2013-14 school year, students from the primary school and from Ten Mile Elementary will be housed together in a new building.
Construction began last week on a new elementary school that is being built behind Irene Reither. Work is expected to be done by November or December 2013. Students at the primary school will stay put during construction.
The new elementary is designed to accommodate up to 600 students. The current primary and elementary schools have about 563 students, combined. The school board decided to unite the two schools in one building to eliminate duplicate administrative and operational costs.
The current Irene Reither, which was built in 1973, will be demolished once the new 60,704-square-foot school is finished.
The school board hasn't yet picked a name for the new school, although it has been referred to, informally, as Meridian Elementary. The board will take up naming in the coming school year.
Ten Mile, built in 1992, will then house the district's Meridian Parent Partnership Program, often referred to as MP3. The program lets parents partner with the district to collaboratively educate their children. It's akin to homeschooling, but with a network of professional educators providing curriculum and teaching support.
The district's high school is being remodeled, too - with a new greenhouse, locker rooms and Career and Technical Education building already completed. Superintendent Tom Churchill said that work is going quickly, and he and other staff have enjoyed watching the changes.
"It's such a morale booster here," he said.
Here is the schedule for the first day of school for districts throughout Whatcom County.
- Lynden Christian Schools start Tuesday, Aug. 28, for students in first through 12th grade. Kindergarteners start Aug. 29 or 30, depending on their schedule.
- Nooksack Valley, Blaine and Lynden school districts start Wednesday, Aug. 29.
- Bellingham, Meridian and Mount Baker school districts start Tuesday, Sept. 4.
- Ferndale and Lummi schools start Wednesday, Sept. 5.
Reach ZOE FRALEY at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 756-2803.