Northshore School District leaders welcomed U.S. Congresswoman Susan DelBene to the newly constructed Ruby Bridges Elementary School on Tuesday, June 1.
The brand-new K-5 school, located on Maltby Road, was approved by Northshore voters in 2018 as a step toward easing the overcrowding in schools on the district’s north end. Serving approximately 500 students, the attendance area for Ruby Bridges includes addresses previously assigned to Canyon Creek, Fernwood and Kokanee elementary schools.
The school opened in the fall of 2020 for remote learning. Its namesake, Ruby Bridges — the first African American child to integrate an all-white public elementary school in the south — personally greeted students and staff virtually in September. Principal Cathi Davis said the new building saw an 80% return rate for in-person learning in April.
“We look forward to an official grand opening for our district community when it is safe to do so,” said Lisa Youngblood Hall, communications director for NSD.
DelBene, who represents Washington’s 1st Congressional District, stopped by to discuss the $130 billion American Rescue Plan and how it has been instrumental in getting kids back to school safely. Her staff said Washington state K-12 schools are estimated to receive $1.9 billion, with about $5.2 million going to NSD.
Youngblood Hall said the funds will be used to support the work in Northshore’s Academic and Student Well-Being Recovery Plan. She noted that some of the funding has already been spent on PPE, HVAC upgrades, cleaning supplies and other required COVID-19 safety protocols.
The recovery plan is designed to identify which students may need additional academic and emotional supports upon the return to in-person learning, according to the district website. The plan includes commitments to racial and educational justice as well as ongoing efforts to create a safe and respectful environment within the school district community, the website states.
Similar to Kokanee Elementary, Ruby Bridges is also a demonstration site for the University of Washington’s Haring Center for Inclusive Practices. The center provides early childhood education to children with and without disabilities, conducts leading-edge research to advance inclusive learning, and trains professionals in proven practices to develop every child’s potential.
The new school features an accessible playground that allows students with disabilities to play. Davis said the project team at Ruby Bridges recently installed a “playground communication board” in March. The sign is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) system consisting of picture symbols paired with words to help students understand one another.
By utilizing this sign, students will no longer need to carry or access their individual communication devices on the playground. This practice promotes inclusivity and independence for the school’s AAC users, she said, and exposes the entire school community to picture symbols and communication boards.