Children and parents march in downtown Walla Walla on Thursday to draw support for a $10.2 million bond to build a new science facility at Walla Walla High School. Ballots in the special election were mailed today; votes in will be counted April 22.
Photo by Michael Lopez.
WALLA WALLA — About 40 people marched along Main Street Thursday afternoon in a demonstration to support the bond proposal to build a new science building at Walla Walla High School.
Ballots for the April 22 special election are being mailed out today. The Walla Walla School District proposes a $10.2 million bond to pay for a 25,000-square-foot science building with 10 classrooms on the northwest corner of the campus.
March in support of Walla Walla High School bond
Marchers walked from First Congregational Church to Land Title Plaza to show support for a bond measure soon to face Walla Walla School District voters.
The district estimates the bond will cost property taxpayers an additional 30 cents per $1,000 in assessed home value per year — about $60 per year for a $200,000 home, for example.
Thursday’s march began in the parking lot of the First Congregational Church and went to the Land Title Plaza at the corner of First Avenue and Main Street before returning to the church.
Marchers, including children, some dressed in lab coats, carried signs and chanted as they walked before pausing at the Land Title Plaza to sing a rendition of the song “If I Had a Hammer.”
Whitman College geochemistry Professor Kirsten Nicolaysen organized the march. She cited removing the temporary classrooms on the Wa-Hi campus and overcrowding in the current science classrooms as reasons to support the district’s proposal.
“It’s true that ... some students will be going to College Place,” Nicolaysen said, “but we’ll still need to use the portables, and those are not energy efficient, and they’re not efficient in terms of the time that the students have to get from one place to another.
“My concern with the current (science building) is that by the time you add 30-plus students and all their backpacks, the rooms are a lot smaller when they’re in action than they seem when they’re empty.”
Nicolaysen began organizing the march about 10 days ago, she said.
“It’s easy for me as a scientist to be a strong advocate for this project,” she said, “but we’ll be advocating for other measures that come up, whether it’s for Lincoln High or other school needs. I feel it’s just too important for these kids to do that.”
Reaction to the district’s science building bond proposal has been mixed.
The current science building was identified as one of the greatest needs in both a poll conducted by Washington State University on behalf of the School District and a separate poll the Union-Bulletin conducted shortly after a bond to renovate all of Wa-Hi failed in February of 2013.
“The district has taken over 13 months to reflect on this issue through a variety of means — community meetings, surveys focus groups — and through that process, the district feels that the proposal reflects that input,” district spokesman Mark Higgins said.
But in a nonscientific poll on the U-B website, which ran March 7-14, immediately after the School Board voted to move forward with the proposal, 63 percent of respondents (83) said they anticipated voting no on the bond.
Since then, the U-B has been flooded with letters to the editor for and against the bond.
Should it pass, it will be the first school bond proposal district voters approved since 2007 when a bond to build a new Edison Elementary School passed by 61 percent. It would also be the first bond to fund construction on the Wa-Hi campus since 1989, when voters approved a bond to build a new library, four classrooms, a gymnasium and the performance arts center.
Ben Wentz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8315.