Directors Jenn Mason (left) and Quenby Peterson visit the Bellingham Family Partnership Program in March 2019

Does place matter for learning?

QUENBY PETERSON: Yes, place matters. The physical quality of our schools sends a message to our families and children that they are valued. A high-quality,clean, safe environment is important; it trickles down to the learning and signals to our students that they matter.

Are there school projects or rebuilds that you feel have really made a difference?

JENN MASON: As a board member, the new Sehome truly accommodates our students in the way it’s designed. It’s an intentional design to help students connect with each other and to the environment. As the parent of a child who uses a wheelchair, I see the benefits of having new schools, including Happy Valley, that are designed to be more cognizant of students who have disabilities.

QUENBY PETERSON: I hear about Sehome every day, and the district has done a great job expanding spaces and bringing all the students together. The principal reported that on the first day of being in the new school, kids were saying they had no idea so many other students attended Sehome. I see how the Central Kitchen has such great potential to impact the health of our kids. Bellingham High School and Whatcom Middle School were old but have been made new again. We haven’t even talked about Options! It’s a great space that is safe and a place for kids to grow and feel welcome.

JENN MASON: Options went from portables in the back side of a building into a space that is a capital project pinnacle. It’s so stunning. It sends a strong message to our students and their families. I like that our new schools are designed to have our preschool and GRADS parents more front and center.

We’re in the beginning stages of determining next steps for our district office. Is it a “place that matters?”

JENN MASON: To me, the current district office doesn’t feel like a space that is inviting to the community. We should have a space that feels like everyone is welcome any time. From parking to the building layout, the accessibility insufficiencies send a message, an unintentional message, that this space isn’t for everyone. We want people to be engaged to the district and in order to be more engaged, we need them to feel more comfortable.

QUENBY PETERSON: The district office needs a more modern facility with greater efficiencies. It’s a necessity to have ample space for people to gather and park. If you can’t find a parking spot or if you can’t access the building, it isn’t a place that is available to everyone.

JENN MASON: Aesthetics are a visual cue of how we’re valued. If we provide comfortable, beautiful spaces, it tells staff and our community that we value all of them.

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