WALLA WALLA — A committee that has been studying the facility needs at Lincoln High School the past few months has concluded it is best to build a new school, but stay at the school’s current site.
Leaders of the Lincoln High School Community Facilities Study Committee presented their findings, which can be read here, to the Walla Walla School Board on Tuesday.
Co-chairs Max Carrera, who has less than two months left on the board, and Lincoln teacher Lori Finn presented an overview of the committee’s work. The group began meeting in February and will hold their last of five meetings June 19.
Lincoln High School, one of two in the district, is geared as a smaller alternative to Walla Walla High School. Lincoln serves about 150 students; many have struggled to thrive in a larger, more traditional school setting. Lincoln students are overwhelmingly low income, but have made academic gains through the years thanks to smaller class sizes, access to social services, and a more nurturing environment.
The school is located in a three-level brick building that was once an elementary school and built in 1927. The facility is in serious need of upgrades.
The Lincoln committee was called to answer whether the school should remain at it’s current location, and whether the old building should be remodeled or built new.
The presentation to the board included results of a survey given to Lincoln teachers and staff; about 18 responded.
In the survey, almost all supported staying in the school’s current site, between Fourth and Third avenues just north of Chestnut Street. Staff were split, however, on whether to remodel or rebuild the facility.
Nine of the staff surveyed supported a new building, while eight supported remodeling. The priority, however, seemed to be on staying at the current location because of it’s access to social services.
“I would like to remain at the same site. But, new or modernize wouldn’t matter then. Large classrooms are important,” one staff member wrote.
One staff member said it was time to give Lincoln students a new facility.
“Lincoln needs to have everything new for once. When the building is built it should be like the other schools with new desks, technology, mounted projectors, everything brand new. Our kids deserve it. (so do the teachers)”
Lincoln was built in 1927 and designed by Henry Osterman, a prominent local architect of the era. Osterman also designed the Walla Walla County Courthouse, the former Carnegie Library, and Walla Walla Armory. His schools included Green Park, Sharpstein Elementary, and the original Prospect Point Elementary and Walla Walla High School buildings, which have since been demolished.
Lincoln is not currently on the National Register of Historic Places, although it could qualify, according to a report by NAS Architecture completed in January.
Finn said the group is recommending building new versus remodeling so that there will be no limitations with the design, and because it would ultimately cost less.
The group is also recommending the district establish an Alternative Learning Committee that will study the district’s alternative learning options consistently. Carrera and Finn pointed out that committee’s like the one they are currently leading have been organized in the past, and have drawn the same conclusions.
Board president Anne Golden said the board would let the recommendations and full report sink in before proceeding with implementing any of the proposals, such as seeking funding methods to build new.
Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8317.