On March 27 I took the opportunity to visit Walla Walla High School and take a tour of the science building. As a Wa-Hi alum (1966), retired chemistry, science and math teacher, I was very curious to see some of my old haunts and classrooms.
I was pleasantly amazed at the good condition of the building. The School District has done an outstanding job of maintaining the labs and classrooms and should be complimented.
The science building is not crumbling and falling apart. The teaching areas are very functional with the exception of my old chemistry lab area. It needs to be larger. I was surprised to see the amount of storage area the biology classrooms have. It is huge.
As I talked to several administrators, School Board members and teachers, their major concerns were with the single-pane windows, heating system and the lack of air conditioning, old plumbing and electrical systems.
Also, the architects seemed to have convinced the board members and administrators that the classrooms are too small and the only solution is to build a new building with larger classrooms for $10.2 million.
My science teaching experience tells me the room sizes and facilities are adequate.
My conclusion from this tour is that the current science building could be remodeled and updated for about $3 million to $4 million. This would replace the windows, add new heat pumps, and update the plumbing and electrical systems.
The whole science building, including the art room and home ec. rooms, could be done for about $6.5 million. For an additional $3.7 million the cafeteria could be remodeled and enlarged.
With the money that would be reimbursed back from the state, this could be used to remodel and enlarge the music building. For me this would be a far better use of $10.2 million than building a new science facility we don’t need and then we would still have to upgrade the current science building and cafeteria with another bond issue.
One additional advantage of doing this quality remodel is that if it was well planned, organized and executed it could be done during the summer of 2016 with little disruption of classes or teaching.
On April 22 I am going to vote “no” on the Wa-Hi science facility proposal. If you really want to help our high school students, Wa-Hi and the community, please vote “no.”
After voting let us urge the School District and Board Members to hold another bond issue in the fall and to do a quality remodel of the science building and cafeteria.