WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla residents have rejected a proposal to overhaul the city’s main high school, based on preliminary election results made available Tuesday night.
The Walla Walla County Auditor’s Office showed 5,056 votes in support of the $48 million proposal to renovate Walla Walla High School, and 4,430 against. The 53.3 percent of voters approving the measure was less than the 60 percent super-majority needed for the bond to pass.
The $48 million proposal represented residents’ share of a $69.6 million project to overhaul Wa-Hi. The proposal looked to use existing foundations and roof structures of its main buildings to update, expand, and modernize the 1963 school.
The Walla Walla School Board spent the last few years studying needs at Walla Walla High School and working with architects to draw up a proposal that met the school’s needs. Wa-Hi consists of several buildings spread across a large rural campus.
Supporters of the effort argued the time was right to make significant improvements to Wa-Hi’s oldest buildings, most of which had not seen major changes since being constructed in the 1960s. The also cited historic lows in interest rates.
The school’s academic and science buildings in particular would have benefited from the proposal with more spacious and energy efficient classrooms. Newer science labs and classrooms, and better technology overall, would have helped make students more competitive, supporters said in both letters to the Union-Bulletin and online.
Opponents primarily focused on the current state of the economy, the large price tag of the project and the burden of more property taxes.
The bond would have cost property tax payers an additional 68 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, bringing their total tax on all Walla Walla School District bonds to $1.95 per $1,000.
In a statement posted online, Walla Walla Public Schools Superintendent Mick Miller thanked staff, parents, students and community volunteers for helping inform the community about the proposal.
Miller gave special thanks to community members and Wa-Hi alumni Craig Sievertsen and Shannon Bergevin for leading the Citizens for Schools Committee.
The School District has made no decision at this time regarding future bond proposals.