WALLA WALLA — Regrouping is the order of the day after proponents of a $10.2 million bond to build a new Walla Walla High School science building suffered defeat in a special election Tuesday.
The loss marks the third time since 2006 that Walla Walla School District voters rejected construction bond measures for the 50-year-old high school.
The vote as of Tuesday night stood at 4,300 to 3,943 in favor of the proposed bond, far shy of the 60 percent supermajority needed for passage. Walla Walla School District Superintendent Mick Miller said it was too early to draw any conclusions from the election.
“We need to regroup, take some time to kind of digest it and get back to square one,” Miller said. “We need to figure out what it is we need to do to move forward.”
Voters around the state were not feeling generous either, as 11 out of 12 school bonds statewide — nearly a billion dollars of school construction — failed, including a bond to renovate Dayton High School.
The proposed 25,000-square-foot Wa-Hi building would have consisted of 10 classrooms, each 1,500 square feet, and housed the entirety of the school’s science program. The bond also would have paid to replace a parking lot where the science building would have been located.
The district has failed in two other attempts to secure funding for a complete renovation or replacement of Wa-Hi.
In 2006 district voters canned a $53.9 million bond that would have seen most of Wa-Hi demolished and rebuilt, along with renovations to Edison Elementary and Lincoln High School — then Paine Campus. That plan, which residents voted down 60 percent to 40 percent, would have cost voters 99 cents, or about $1.17 when adjusted for inflation, per $1,000 in property taxes.
More recently, the district got closer to, but still fell short of, the required supermajority to pass a bond with a $48 million proposal in 2013 that focused solely on Wa-Hi and would have retained the current buildings and layout of the campus. Only 53 percent of voters approved of that plan, which would have cost 68 cents per $1,000.
Now, with construction costs and bond interest rates rising, the district estimated the new science building would have cost residents 30 cents per $1,000 over 15 years.
“I’m just disappointed,” Miller said. “I feel bad for our students and staff. We’re still just digesting what happened.”
This will likely not be the end of bond proposals at Walla Walla High School, however, as district officials said before Tuesday’s failure that they will likely consider another bond proposal to further renovate the aging school in 2018 when a bond that was used to renovate Edison Elementary is due to be paid off.
Ben Wentz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8315.