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playworksPlayworks is designed to create a place for every kid on the playground -- where every kid belongs, has fun and is part of the game.

Playworks provides staff with training and strategies that are being implemented on our playgrounds. Staff are specially trained to lead games that are inclusive and positive for all students. Some games include 4-Square, Capture the Flag, Freeze Tag, Red Light/Green Light and more.

Playworks is designed to not only decrease negative behavior on the playground but also to increase positive behavior in the classroom. According the the annual survey conducted by Playworks in Washington State, staff found an overall increase in cooperation and conflict resolution in students.




Frequently Asked Questions

How did Playworks get started in Bellingham Public Schools?

The philosophy behind Playworks aligns with the Bellingham Promise, supporting the development of healthy, active individuals; leaders, collaborators and team players; effective communicators; respectful and compassionate humans. Playworks was piloted in 2012-13 by five elementary schools through Title I funding. Over time, other principals and school leaders expressed an interest in this approach to recess, and the opportunity expanded to include all schools. At this time, all elementary schools are at different levels of implementation.

Why Playworks? Why change recess?

Recess can be a wonderful break in the day for kids – a time to be silly with friends, to play a competitive game, or to develop a new physical skill. But for some, recess can also be a difficult time – when disagreements arise and some children feel left out of the action.

We are implementing Playworks strategies in elementary schools across Bellingham in order to address safety and inclusion of all students in a positive and proactive way. Playworks strategies seek to create an environment where more students can engage in healthy physical play, and where fun for all becomes more important than winning for a few. There are many aspects of recess that look very similar to recess in past years. Recess zones and games of the week are two examples of Playworks strategies that have brought about positive change.

Our principals and recess supervisors are seeing a decrease in the number of recess incidents that result in office referrals and disciplinary action. In addition, we’re seeing fewer conflicts on the playground that need adult intervention when students return to the classroom, which means that time can be focused on teaching and learning rather than resolving recess conflicts. Perhaps the greatest impact has been for individual students who previously struggled with social dynamics at recess and are now experiencing the benefits of healthy physical activity in an environment that supports inclusion for everyone.

Kids follow structure during the rest of the school day. Don’t they need unstructured time at recess?

Unstructured free time is healthy for growing children, both at home and at school. However, group games, whether they are created and organized by kids on playgrounds or by adult coaches and referees, have some sort of structure. Playworks allows for the creativity of students who dream up a new game and find friends to play along with them. It also allows for the freedom to choose from a wide variety of fun activities.

Playworks does create some structure on the playground as well. This happens through zones that are designated for different types of play, and through the introduction of safe and inclusive rules for certain group games on the playground. We find that the structure for these games helps to create a healthier community and more inclusive environment, while still giving students opportunities for free choice on the playground. Many students never play structured games and spend most of their time on the play equipment or making up their own games. Kids can still even just stand around if they want! However, we find that most kids do want to play, and most of our kids are now coming in from recess happy and sweaty instead of complaining and saying “Recess is boring. There is nothing to do.”

It seems like recess is less competitive with Playworks.

When there are clear, fair rules and equal opportunity, kids can still compete. In the past, games with constantly changing rules (such as 4-square), or rules that only those with extensive experience understood (such as soccer or basketball) meant that a select few children dominated the competition. With clear rules, focused on safety and inclusion, the game can remain competitive in a way that many more students can enjoy. On our playgrounds, you will now see a variety of games – some remain quite competitive, while others are more cooperative, giving students more choices for physical play.

Does Playworks allow students to be creative, take risks, and learn to solve their own problems?

Yes. We want students to take reasonable risks and learn to solve conflicts. Playworks strategies encourage both of these things. We believe that having rules/structures around games, emphasizing fair play and inclusion of all who wish to join in creates a healthy community in which more students can take risks by joining in a game. Playworks strategies include tools to help students resolve their own conflicts and schools with established approaches to conflict-resolution continue to teach those methods within the context of Playworks-style recess. And, at many schools, students are becoming actively involved in designing the games and making up the rules.

Why do we provide school supplies?

Bellingham Public Schools strives to provide a free, public education of the highest quality for all students. Buying school supplies — in addition to the many other fees associated with school and activities — is a financial hardship for many families. Our community generously supports our schools in numerous ways, and so much is already asked of parents related to fundraising and fees. Our schools will purchase the supplies students need for learning, as we do with books and other materials.


  • Reduce the school supply financial hardship to families as much as possible over time;
  • Eliminate waste for supplies that aren’t used by the end of the year as well as parents’ time and gas money; and
  • Support families in using time saved from school supply shopping to focus on setting learning goals for the new school year and planning for time and space at home for reading and homework.

School Supply Lists for 2019-2020

Elementary School:

  • School supplies provided
  • Backpacks only

Middle School:

  • School supplies provided
  • Students may need ASB cards and will need clothes for physical education
  • Backpacks are recommended but not required
  • No athletic participation fees

High School:

  • School supplies provided, as needed
  • No course fees
  • Reduced high school college preparation testing fees such as PSAT and Advanced Placement (AP) tests
  • Traffic Safety and Financial Education course (driver’s education) added to high school course offerings
  • Students will need ASB cards
  • Backpacks are recommended but not required
  • No athletic participation fees
  • Graduation robes provided on loan; caps and tassels provided to seniors to keep


The main purpose of this initiative is to reduce expenses for families.  Therefore, we ask that families only bring the supplies requested.  Families and community organizations that want to help are encouraged to make a monetary donation to the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation in lieu of purchasing supplies for a school. This helps ensure equity for students by avoiding an abundance of supplies at one school and not enough at another.

What does it mean when “snow routes” are in effect?

A snow bus route (or snow route) is a modified bus route that generally runs on main roads rather than side streets or through neighborhoods. Driving a school bus in some areas may not be possible during severe weather. If snow routes are in effect, students must catch their bus at alternate stops.

Please review the weather communications carefully to determine if snow routes are in effect for the morning only or for the morning and afternoon routes. Depending on where you live, a snow route may or may not be necessary. It is the responsibility of families to know if they live on a snow route. Bus drivers may also remind students if they live in a snow route area.

Families of young children are reminded of the Return Home Plan communicated with them at the start of the school year. The same information and plan applies for a snow route. Please make arrangements to ensure the safety of your child at snow route stops.

How can I find my snow route?

Depending on where you live, you may or may not have a snow route. If schools are on snow routes pick up times will vary. To find your snow route, visit our Snow Routes webpage and click on your school. Transportation will make individual arrangements for special education buses which do not follow the snow routes.

How can I be notified of school closures or delays?

Families can sign up to receive email and/or text alerts, by setting their contact preferences within Skyward Family Access by clicking on the Skylert tab. If you need additional assistance, visit our Skylert webpage or call 360-676-6520.

How are decisions made?

We closely monitor the weather. Most often, decisions are made in the early morning rather than the night before so that the most current weather conditions and forecasts can factor into the decision.

We recognize the impact on family schedules and will communicate any decision as quickly as possible. In the early morning hours (typically beginning at 3 a.m.), staff drive main roads and side streets throughout school district boundaries to assess driving and walking conditions. Information is compiled and reported to the superintendent, who will make the decision – based on the best available information at that time – to close, delay and/or run buses on snow routes. We understand these decisions disrupt family life and appreciate your patience during these severe weather situations. While we know that our students and families are best served when we are open, our top concern is the safety of our students and staff.

Will some schools close or delay while others remain open?

Generally, no.

Our school district is made up of about 100 square miles. Road and walking conditions usually vary widely from one neighborhood to another. This makes for a difficult decision on whether to close or delay school and/or use snow bus routes in all or only parts of our community. The decision whether to close or delay applies to all schools so that it will be easily understood and equitable for all students, staff and families. In rare circumstances when an emergency such as a prolonged power outage affects only a specific area, schedule changes may be needed for that school or set of schools.

How can I get weather/emergency information?

Bellingham Public Schools uses a variety of methods to keep you informed:

  • An email alert will automatically come to you if you have an email address in SchoolMessenger or Skyward (via Skylert tab; visit our Skylert webpage for for step-by-step directions). For an early a.m. text, please check your notification preferences in Skyward or contact 360-676-6520. You may select a phone call “early a.m.” option, but we do not plan to use the call feature for this school year to increase the speed of our communications.
  • Tune to local media: 790 AM, 96.5 FM, 104.1 FM or Seattle media.
  • Check
  • Check @BhamSD on Twitter or @bellinghamschools on Facebook
  • Call 360-676-6400 for a recorded message.
  • Call 360-647-6815 for a message translated in Español, русский, tính từ and Punjabi.

What if a storm begins when children are at school?

We try, if at all possible, not to dismiss school early due to weather, except in rare extreme weather conditions.

Releasing early is problematic when families are not expecting it. Families may always choose to pick up their children early. We do our best to monitor and anticipate conditions. If needed in severe weather, we would use emergency contact information to communicate with parents.

What happens when school opens 2 hours late?

School is delayed when the weather is bad but is forecasted to improve and warm/thaw after sunrise.

This also allows our buses to operate in better conditions with less traffic. To maximize student learning time on days when weather requires a late start for safety, all schools will begin 2 hours later. All out-of-district daytime transportation is canceled when on snow routes or a delayed start (e.g. Northwest Career and Technical Academy).

When school is delayed, students will catch the bus about 2 hours later at their regular bus stop or at their snow route stop if snow routes are in effect:

10:00 a.m. start for elementary schools

10:30 a.m. start for high schools

11:15 a.m. start for middle schools

A.M. and P.M. preschool (including Headstart) is canceled

If school is closed, are activities/events/meetings canceled?


All school and district athletics held on or off district property — including mandatory or voluntary practices/rehearsals, activities (field trips and school/district facility rentals), meetings/events previously planned for before, after school and evening — are canceled. When school is open on snow routes or delayed, school and district administrators decide whether to cancel activities, meetings and events on a school-by-school basis. This information will be communicated to families.

If school is closed, when will missed days be made up?

State law requires that children attend school 180 days.

Children must be present for a certain number of hours each day in order for it to count as a school day. When school is delayed, children are in attendance the hours needed to meet state requirements. When school is closed, missed days must be made up unless they are waived by the state. State law does not currently allow school districts to add minutes onto each school day to make up missed time. Our school district’s 180-day calendar is part of the contract with our labor associations. The school calendar and the teachers’ collective bargaining agreement allow the first two missed school days to be made up at the end of the school year, which if needed, would be June 17 and 18, 2019. If additional make-up days are necessary, other options will be discussed and explored. We recognize the importance of having children in school on a regular schedule with quality, uninterrupted learning time. With safety as our primary concern, decisions that impact student learning are always weighed with careful consideration. Please be patient during weather situations as we share in the frustration regarding schedule changes.

Keeping our students and staff safe at school is a top priority. School Safety and Emergency Management provides oversight to all district sites under the One Schoolhouse Approach. Our mission is to promote a culture of safety and preparedness and a learning environment in which all students can succeed while feeling happy, healthy, and safe. This work is overseen by the Director of School Safety and Emergency Management, Jonah Stinson.

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Parent-student Reunification

Parent-student reunification is a process where parents will be asked to pick up their children from school or another location in a formal, controlled release. Learn more about how this process works here.


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Make each trip a safe one. Together we can keep our children safe as they travel to and from school.  Learn about pick-up and drop-off procedure, busing, and parking lot safety.

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Information about E-cigarettes and Vaping

We are partnering with our local public health organizations, police, district safety and wellness offices, prevention-intervention specialists, nurses, counselors and teachers to develop a consistent approach to vaping.

Registering your child for school

To register your child for school you can download and complete the registration forms, but you must take them in person to your local school (during the summer, registration packets may be turned in to the District Office at 1306 Dupont Street). Registration forms can be found on our forms webpage.

In-person registration is required to verify identification and age. For students who have not previously enrolled in Bellingham Public Schools you will need:

  • Your child's birth certificate or other official verification of age such as a passport, visa or DSHS Medicaid Voucher,
  • Proof of residency (your address), acceptable proof includes government issued documents, lease or rental agreement, utility bills,
  • Immunization records.

If you are registering your child for high school, you may pick up the forms at your local high school.


Kindergarten Information

There are 14 elementary schools in Bellingham, all with full-time kindergarten programs. Kindergarten registration begins in March every year.  Please contact your neighborhood school to register. During the summer, families can register their child at the District Office.

Children must be 5 before Sept. 1 to attend kindergarten. Kindergarten tours and open houses begin in May. Check with your school office for early entrance opportunities. Click here to locate your neighborhood school.


Fill out the forms below and take them to your neighborhood school to register.


What to Bring for Registration:

  • Your child's birth certificate to verify date of birth and legal name
  • Immunization records (if available ahead of time from your pediatrician)
  • Proof of residency


Kindergarten Immunizations:

Before a student can attend school, parents must provide proof of full immunization, proof that a schedule of immunization has been started or a certificate of exemption. Immunization must be provided against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, polio, mumps, measles, rubella, hepatitis B and varicella.

Immunizations protect the health of your child, and the health of others. State law requires that children entering Kindergarten must have certain immunizations. For Kindergarten entry:

  • 2 doses of Varicella (Chickenpox) given on or after 1st birthday and received at least 28 days apart OR Blood test (titer) showing immunity to Varicella OR health care provider diagnosis is acceptable. Parent reported history of disease is NO longer acceptable
  • 5 doses of DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis)
    5th dose must be given on or after 4th birthday or 4 doses are acceptable, if 4th dose was given on or after the 4th birthday.
  • 4 doses of Polio - 4th dose must be given on or after 4th birthday or 3 doses are acceptable, if 3rd dose was given on or after the 4th birthday.
  • 2 doses of MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) given on or after 1st birthday and received at least 28 days apart OR Blood test (titer) showing immunity to Measles, Mumps, or Rubella is acceptable
  • 3 doses of Hepatitis B; dose 3 must be given on or after 24 weeks of age.


School Forms


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