Middle School Matters

Whatcom Middle School Newsletter, September 2021

From the Wildcat's Den...

Hello Whatcom Families!

“Every American who ever lived, with the exception of one group, was either an immigrant himself or a descendant of immigrants.” John F. Kennedy

During the first week of school, I was looking at demographic data on our current student population. It’s a thing that Principals do to get an understanding of their student population. Usually, it’s a pretty unsurprising enterprise. Not this time. When I clicked on “Languages spoken” (as the kids say) my head exploded.

Here’s why...

Whatcom students and families speak 14 different languages! One thing leading to another, I thought, “I wonder, how many countries our students and their families come from?” “How could I find out?” I went for the immediate and direct approach; I went to every classroom and asked the kids. Using myself as an example, I let the students know that my parents were both born and raised in Canada. I’m a first generation American. I’m quite proud of both of those facts. So, I asked, “In what country were you born and what country might your parents, step-parents, etc. come from?” Thirty classrooms later I had my answer; over 100 students indicated that they, or their parents, were associated with 52 nations from across the globe! It’s so exciting!

Then what did I do?

I got online and ordered 52 flags, of course. TWO SETS! We’re going to have two sets of flags in the hallway representing each country that our students and their families come from. From Moldova to Mexico, China to Canada, Singapore to Spain, Ecuador to England, Lebanon to Lummi Nation; we’ve got your flag!

I love that fact that the United States of America continues to be a place of refuge and re-creation for families throughout the world. And, I love that our classrooms and hallways represent the very face of America. It’s such a privilege to serve in a school that has such rich diversity.

Our Bellingham Promise emphasizes Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and we’re living that every day!

Wishing you good learning,


Mark your calendar!

Sept 21 - Picture Day

Sept 23 - All Schools Early Dismissal

Sept 24 - No School - Teacher Workday

Sept 30 - Back to School Night, 6:30 pm, Webinar - Zoom link will be sent out.

Oct 19 - PTSA Meeting, 7:00 - 8:00 pm

From the Counseling Office...

Greetings from the counseling office! We’ve been visiting classrooms to introduce ourselves to the kids and talk about what we do and how to access us. They’ve been great; it’s so much fun to see them and answer their questions! We want them to know that we’re here to support them in their social-emotional and academic growth and that they can seek us out to help navigate anything that is getting in the way of them being at their best. We are also available to answer questions and problem-solve with parents, so please reach out if we can help with anything that comes up with your student.

As some of you know, Molly is out temporarily but her sub, Rita Hocking-Kombol, is available to assist. You can contact us via email (elizabeth.schille-oconnor@bellinghamschools.org, rita.hocking-kombol@bellinghamschools.org, mollyj.foote@bellinghamschools.org) or phone (Beth x4352, Rita/Molly x4353). We look forward to talking with you and answering questions about middle schoolers, whether this is your first or fifth!

Whatcom MS Picture Day is Right Around the Corner

Students will be photographed by O'Connor Photography Studio for their student ID card and school record on September 21st. If you would like to purchase your student's portraits, click below to pre-order their portraits today!


You can also purchase by visiting their website at: www.oconnorphotographystudio.com

If you have any questions or need assistance

please give their studio a call at 1-800-993-4929.

Make-up day is Oct. 26th.

Big picture

PE Update

After completing a Soccer unit, we are starting Team Handball and Erg Ed units in our PE classes. Rowing machines, "ergs", will be used through partnership with the Whatcom Rowing Association. This unique opportunity offers a physical challenge and exposes students to a lifetime activity available in our community.

We are also looking forward to our annual Turkey Trot on November 2nd and 3rd! Info from Mindi Jordan will be coming soon regarding volunteer opportunities (course managers and snack distributors). Thanks for considering. This is a rain or shine event!

WMS Clubs 2021-22

  • TSA (Teachnology Student Association)
  • QSA (Queer Straight Alliance)
  • Leadership
  • ASB (Associated Student Body)
  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • Yearbook/Photojournalism
  • Bike Club
  • Aviation Ground School
  • Choir
  • Environmental Justice
  • Tunes Club
  • Art Club

Most clubs will start the week of September 20. For more details about the clubs, visit our Extracurricular Activities page on our website.

Click on the link to the Clubs Sign Up to express your interest and “sign up” to participate in the club .
Club advisors will receive lists of interested students and reach out through email regarding club details.

A message from Asst. Principal, Tina Allsop

For better or worse, social media is a part of our middle schooler’s lives and unfortunately, the latest social media trend has made its way into the bathrooms of Whatcom Middle School. “Devious Licks” is a Tiktok trend that has emerged in the last few weeks in which students take things from their schools like soap dispensers, toilet paper, computers or personal items from teachers’ classrooms. In some cases, students are also vandalizing the bathrooms using red Kool-Aid or other drink concentrates that look like blood or taking toilet paper out of the dispensers and putting the rolls in the toilets. The students film themselves doing the “lick” and post it to Tiktok where their followers can see their shenanigans and comment. For more on the trend and the havoc it is wreaking across the country, click here: https://people.com/human-interest/what-to-know-about-devious-lick-tiktok-challenge/

At Whatcom, one of our four pillars is Stewardship. We value taking care of our school and community. Vandalism like this is in direct opposition to the pillar of Stewardship and impacts our staff and students negatively. We urge families to talk with their students about trends such as this and how damaging their effects are on a community. We will be reminding students of our expectations for bathroom use and asking students to use the restrooms only with teacher permission. Thank you for your support and partnership as we navigate this new challenge.

Q & A from our COVID safety team

Q: How do you do contact tracing? How will I know if my child is a close contact?

A: When we find out that someone with COVID was at school, we launch a thorough investigation to identify close contacts. This process often includes staff, school nurse, director of health services and COVID-19 safety team. You can see this chart for a definition of a close contact and how vaccination status impacts quarantine requirements.

If there was exposure, we do contact tracing, which is another way of saying we determine if there are close contacts. If there are close contacts, we prioritize communication with close contacts as quickly as possible. We work in partnership with our COVID safety team and the health department to determine and share exposure date, return date and resources.

After we have notified close contacts, we update the COVID dashboard on our website, which we update regularly. If we learn of multiple cases in a classroom over a short duration, we will communicate that. These cases may be coincidental and unrelated. If the health department determines transmission is occurring, we will work closely with them on next steps and communicate.

Please remember: if your child is a close contact, you will be notified. If you’re not notified but you see a case on the dashboard, you should assume your child was not a close contact.

And as always, keep masking, washing hands, keeping distance as able, watching for symptoms, etc. Vaccine and masks continue to be our most important mitigation tactics.

Gardening with Common Threads

Hello! My name is Evelyn Gray. I’m delighted to join the Whatcom Middle School community as the new Common Threads AmeriCorps Food Educator. This fall, students 6th through 8th grade will explore and learn in the garden classroom as they help build healthy soil, save seeds, plant cover crops, and enjoy the harvest! A huge THANKS to all who helped care for the garden during the summer! If you'd like to volunteer in the garden (for lessons or garden maintenance) please let me know: evelyn.gray@commonthreadsfarm.org

Join our team in Bellingham Public Schools

Parents and guardians! Be a part of The Bellingham Promise in a new way…as a staff member! Bellingham Public Schools is hiring now for regular and substitute positions.

Current vacancies include paraeducators, office staff and bus drivers, as well as coaching and teaching positions. Most positions are on a school year schedule making this a perfect fit for your family.

Learn more about working for us at bellinghamschools.org/jobs.


Click here for the 2021-22 School Year, A/B Calendars and more!

ALL IN for Climate Action Week, Sept. 20-26

During September 20-26, the City is organizing its third annual ALL IN for Climate Action Week to celebrate the knowledge and resources our community has to offer when looking for local solutions to climate change. Many organizations, businesses, and local governments in the community have partnered to create a list of virtual and safe in-person events for all ages and diverse interest groups. We invite you to join us to watch inspirational films, hear from community speakers, join a bike ride, plant trees or clean up litter at a local park, participate in a composting workshop, check out an electric vehicle car show, eat a local vegan meal, read a climate-themed book, and more! Find event details at cob.org/climate-action-week.

Picking up students early from school...

The quickest way to check your student out early is to send them with a note to the attendance window in the morning before school starts or send an email to Beth.Pelto-Fishbeck@bellinghamschools.org. Your student will receive a pass allowing them to leave the building at the appointed time and meet you at your vehicle.

Do not make arrangements with your student's teachers!

If you have an unplanned check out, please call the attendance office, (360) 676-6460, opt. 1. Please allow us time to locate your student by calling in advance. You will then be required to come inside and sign your student out.

Students arriving to school late, or returning from an appointment, must come to the attendance window with a signed note from a parent or guardian. Your student will then receive a pass which they will take to their teacher.

Getting to School

Halleck St. (in front of the school) is closed to all vehicles except school buses. Please do not attempt to drop off your student on Halleck St. Please use one of the side streets instead.

Students not riding buses should not arrive until 9:00 am. At 9:00 students will be allowed to enter the building and go directly to their first period classroom. The first bell rings at 9:10 am signaling the time to be in their seats and the late bell rings at 9:15 am.

Bike racks are available in front of the school. Bikes should always be locked to prevent theft. If a student happens to forget their lock, we can help with securing the bike in the building for the day. Scooters and skateboards can be stored in the main office.

Cell phone policy

Unless permitted by a staff member, students are not allowed to use cellphones during the school day (9:00 am - 3:45 pm). All cell phones are to be turned off and stored in backpacks. Failure to adhere to school policy may result in confiscation and parents picking up phones in the main office.

Parents needing to contact their students may do so by emailing your student's district email address or by calling the Main Office or Attendance Office. Your child can call you from our attendance office.

School Dress Code

Part of The Bellingham Promise, our strategic plan, strives to develop students and graduates who are respectful and compassionate humans. We want students to respect themselves and others. While we encourage individuality, the district’s dress code aims to foster a positive and healthy environment.

  • Students should dress casually and comfortably for school, while wearing clothing that is well-suited for a school environment.
  • Masks are required at all times in the building (except breakfast and lunch) and are optional outside.
  • Appropriate headgear may be worn for warmth and protection outdoors, and inside for religious reasons or special circumstances.
  • Clothing, drawings, tattoos and accessories that display or promote negative messages are not permitted. These could include drug, gang, weapon, alcohol or tobacco-related information, obscenities, put-downs, stereotypes, sexual innuendo, offensive words or graphics.
  • A violation of the dress code will require a change of clothing.
  • Special circumstances will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Skyward Emergency Contact Information

When students come unexpectedly to the office for illness or injury, we often need to call for someone to pick them up, and often times, it's an emergency contact we end up having to call.

Sometimes emergency contacts change phone numbers or the contact in Skyward is no longer available. We would appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to log into Skyward Family Access and make sure your emergency contact information is up to date. If you need help or have questions, you can contact our registrar, Nancy Howell. Thank you!

Manage your notifications with Skylert

Skylert enables you to receive notifications concerning your children, including messages from Bellingham Public Schools and your child’s school. You have control over which notifications to receive and how you would like to receive them. Skylert is accessed via Skyward Family Access, so it is no longer necessary to login to a separate portal for SchoolMessenger to manage contact preferences.

Click here for step by step instructions to update phone numbers, email addresses and set your preferences.

Whatcom Middle School PTSA

Whatcom Middle School PTSA is committed to providing teachers and students with an excellent level of service this year. We are asking you to join PTSA by following the link below. Thank you for your help and please support your PTSA.


2021-22 PTSA Board:

  • President - Bri Smolen
  • Vice President - Lorrie Melton
  • Treasurer - Daniele O'Connell
  • Secretary - Amy Guerra

Whatcom Middle School

Principal: Jeff Coulter

Assistant Principal: Tina Allsop

Administrative Assistant: Aileen Walton

(360) 676-6460

  • Attendance, option 1
  • Athletics, option 2
  • Registrar/Counseling, option 3
  • Main office, option 4