School Board makes right call in delaying vote on Wa-Hi bond proposal

More time is needed to determine what this community wants and is willing to fund.


The Walla Walla School Board made a wise decision to delay its decision on revamping Wa-Hi.

The project is important and will be expensive. It must be done right.

Superintendent Mick Miller has done a solid job reaching out to the community over the past few months attempting to determine what folks would like to see in a refurbished Wa-Hi and how much they would be willing to spend - tax themselves - to do the job.

Gaining a community consensus on such a large project would be difficult under normal circumstances. But the Great Recession, which we seem to finally be emerging from, has made it even more difficult. People are still skittish on money matters.

"We're not ready," Miller told the School Board on Tuesday in making his recommendation to wait. Miller said more time is needed to conduct outreach in the community and to explain the needs at the high school. District officials are also hoping to gain community support for building a new Lincoln Alternative High School, which is now housed in what was Paine School off Fourth Avenue.

The various scenarios outlined by Miller over the past few months were complex. They all involve approving a property-tax bond that would make the district eligible for state matching funds. The concepts call for using the bond money to fund the work at Wa-Hi and then matching funds would be used to address the needs of Lincoln High. The numbers tossed around were $10 million to overhaul one or two buildings, $25 million to redo about half of the Wa-Hi campus or $45 million to rebuild the entire school.

Miller and the School Board now have time to continue talking to the community about Wa-Hi's future. It should be used effectively.

We would hope Miller and other school officials reach out to groups and individuals who represent a broad cross section of the community. This must include those who have expressed concerns about previous school-bond proposals and concerns about the current options being discussed.

The subject of building a second high school should also be discussed. Some people see the size of Wa-Hi, which is about 1,900 students, as a problem.

In addition, the timing of the bond request is critical.

The school district will be asking voters to approve a maintenance and operations levy next year.

Would it be smart to put a bond request on the same ballot as a levy request or would it be better to seek bond support at a different time?

Many questions must be answered.

School Board members and Miller now have the time to get answers to those questions while attempting to get a reading of the community's feelings about this important project.


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