School district seeks comments on Wa-Hi design

Conceptual designs show expansion of current buildings and new construction.


WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla Public Schools is seeking community input on a potential redesign of Walla Walla High School.

Last week, the district unveiled conceptual designs of a facilities overhaul at the high school that would preserve its overall aesthetic, and open-campus, feel while expanding current buildings and adding some new construction.

Earlier this year the district contracted with architectural firms BLRB of Tacoma, and USKH of Walla Walla, which are working together on the Wa-Hi redesign.

The Walla Walla School Board had initially weighed seeking a bond this spring to improve the high school, but Superintendent Mick Miller recommended the board wait longer before presenting residents with a formal proposal.

The current Wa-Hi designs are available to view on the district's website at Online, residents can also find contact information to provide feedback and recommendations on the current redesign.

Miller said the goal is to seek a bond in spring of 2012, after the district holds its election in February for approval of its maintenance and operations levy. The levy maintains current local funding for basic school needs and programs.

The main vision of the Wa-Hi redesign is to accent the school's best features, with little change to its overall look. Brick exteriors would be preserved, and used throughout the campus on new construction and expansions. Bridges across Yellow Hawk Creek would be widened.

The school's most in-need buildings -- its academic and science buildings -- would be remodeled instead of replaced.

Because the school's foundations and roof structures are still sound, architects have proposing lifting the roofs, expanding walls out to enclose deep overhangs, and changing the interior flow and layout. Roofs would be modified and replaced.

The goal with the interiors is to add more space by absorbing exterior corridors and creating more flow between classrooms within each building.

The existing commons would be expanded at its current location, and the library and administrative offices would be attached. The library would be smaller, and the administrative offices would move out of the academic building to be in a more central location.

Miller said the district qualifies for about 41,000 square feet of new construction on the campus. And new construction is being proposed in the school's career and technical education building, and for the band and coral rooms.

There are no major plans to renovate the school's gymnasium, although a more modern fitness and weight room would be incorporated into the current space.

"Overall, our gyms are in pretty good shape," Miller said during a recent meeting with stakeholders.

Parking would also be improved. A current parking lot on Abbott Road and Fern Street would be replaced with tennis courts, which would allow the school to host tournaments. Having the courts in a visible, easily accessible location could also make them more appealing for residents to use.

The current parking lot would move just south of the courts along Fern.

Parking on the south side of the school, leading to the school's gym and auditorium, would change dramatically, expanding into the current soccer field and switching the lanes so more cars fit parking north to south across various rows.

Additional parking would move off Abbott Road by the school's career and technical education building, to south of the redesigned building.

Whether the district will seek a series of smaller bonds over time, or one large one to cover all needs at once, is still being decided. The district is also not releasing a dollar cost to remodel Wa-Hi, although at the recent stakeholder meeting, Miller said a complete overhaul of Wa-Hi could cost $67 million, with about $26 million in state matching money available. That would put the community's potential share at close to $41 million.

Miller said the district was also still considering how best to meet the needs of students at Lincoln Alternative High School. Public input appears to be split on whether to replace the school at its current site on Fourth Avenue, move it to a different location, or seek other alternatives.

In a separate project, the district continues to explore ways to improve Wa-Hi's athletic track and fields. Miller went over several proposals, some small, some grand, that range from simply improving the track to an all-weather track to seeking a football stadium on the campus that would allow the school to move out of Borleske Stadium.

A better track would also save the district about $12,000 a year in busing expenses. Miller corrected a previous estimate of $30,000 spent on busing annually.

Miller said money to improve the track and potentially build a stadium would be sought through private donors, with the district likely contributing some general fund dollars.

Maria Gonzalez can be reached at or 526-8317.

Wa-Hi Conceptual Designs Spring 2011


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment

Click here to sign in