Generally, doing nothing isn’t front-page news. Yet, it was Wednesday in the U-B after the School Board on Tuesday took a pass on setting a timeline for developing a new proposal to upgrade Walla Walla High School and when it should be put before the voters.
Last month the $48 million bond proposal to overhaul Wa-Hi failed to gain the 60 percent majority needed for approval. About 53 percent of voters favored the $69.6 million proposal (using $21.6 million from state matching funds) to essentially rebuild classrooms and make other huge improvements on the Wa-Hi campus.
The School Board quickly (and wisely) held a public meeting to hear citizens’ thoughts on why the Wa-Hi bond failed and what voters would approve. About 60 people packed the School Board room, many offering their views — and this included about a half dozen folks who said they voted against the bond. The five School Board members were left with a lot to chew on.
Friday is the deadline for putting a proposal on the April ballot. A few citizens at the meeting urged Board members to ramp up the marketing campaign and take another shot with the failed proposal.
However, many in the crowd suggested the Board take more time to craft a plan focusing on the “needs” at Wa-Hi rather than “wants.”
Many speakers, including some who were very critical of the failed bond proposal, said they understand some renovation is needed at Wa-Hi but what was offered to voters was, in their view, simply too expensive.
Tuesday’s decision to hit the brakes and not have an April redo shows Board members did not just hear the public — they listened.
Board President Anne Golden and members Cindy Meyer and Ruth Ladderud favored taking more time. (Board members Max Carrera and Dan Hess were absent.)
Ladderud, who was appointed to the Board in September, said she heard citizens still had questions after last week’s public meeting.
Meyer, too, said it is too early in the process to move forward. She said she did not feel comfortable establishing a schedule.
“We’re not there yet,” she said.
Not even close. The Board and school district officials have a lot more listening to do. And once they feel comfortable with a consensus for a proposal, the plan developed must be aggressively vetted to the point the Board feels very confident it will be approved by voters in a landslide.
It won’t be easy, but school officials seem to be on the right path.