Editorial: Perhaps Wa-Hi overhaul should start with its science building

That building seems to be in the most need of modernization.

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The Walla Walla School Board needs to think small — or, at least, smaller.

Walla Walla High School needs major upgrades, which means voters must approve funding. Unfortunately, not enough citizens have embraced the previous two proposals to rebuild and modernize Wa-Hi.

The next time around the School Board needs to dramatically scale back what it sends to voters.

The proposal floated in February sought $48 million to pair with $21.6 million in state matching funds for a $69.6 million overhaul.

The bond proposal needed 60 percent approval, but received just 53 percent.

Since the vote — to the credit of the School Board and district officials — a serious effort has been launched to find out what the public would embrace.

Yet, despite the district conducting a telephone survey through Washington State University using a scientific model, a nonscientific poll on the Internet with SurveyMonkey and a Union-Bulletin poll, there’s no clear community consensus on a direction.

However, one aspect of a Wa-Hi modernization most folks seem to agree on is that the science building is a disaster and needs to be replaced. It’s not suitable for lab experiments nor can it accommodate today’s technology.

Start there.

The February proposal called for about $15 million to be spent gutting, expanding and improving the science building.

Voters could be asked to approve a bond to fully fund a state-of-the-art science building and then state matching money could be used to tackle the most obvious problems in other buildings.

Given the responses to the various surveys, the discussions at School District sessions and the chatter in town, a new or like-new science building would seem to be a slam dunk (or as close to a sure thing as is possible with any election).

A substantial number of people still want to see a major overhaul of most of the original 1963 buildings on the Wa-Hi campus.

Frankly, so do we. The Union-Bulletin supported the concept of doing all the Wa-Hi renovations with one bond in February and 2006.

That didn’t happen nor is there much chance it will happen anytime soon. Simply wanting a complete overhaul won’t make it happen unless 60 percent of voters agree.

We see focusing on the science building as a good option, but there certainly are other scenarios to consider.

The School Board needs to bring a plan to the voters that will pass — overwhelmingly.

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