Walla Walla High School has a problem. It’s not a new problem and everyone knows about it.
Nearly 70 percent of the community and 85 percent of the Wa-Hi staff agree that Wa-Hi isn’t in good condition. There have been a couple of attempts to fix this problem but the voters rejected both. Meanwhile, our kids suffer in substandard classrooms.
Since last February, many hours were spent listening to the community, the task force, Wa-Hi staff and Wa-Hi students searching for a compromise. The community said, “We like how our school looks, College Place is building, do this in phases, lower the cost and focus on the greatest needs.” The task force considered the community input and looked at designs. The Wa-Hi staff also came to the table to assess the impact the various options would have on the learning environment.
As solutions were considered, the need for fewer classrooms was understood (due, of course, to College Place), but that the current permanent classrooms are too small and the 16 temporary classrooms (portables) had to go. There simply are not enough square feet in the existing Wa-Hi buildings to meet the needs of our teachers and students — even after the College Place kids are gone.
Four options were considered and two rose to the top: 1) push out the walls and eliminate the covered breezeways (basically the February 2013 bond plan) or 2) leave the walls and gain the needed additional square feet through new construction.
Through the long process of listening to all the stakeholders, there came the realization that adding these needed square feet by building new science classrooms created a perfect opportunity for the compromise that has been so elusive.
It is a win for the taxpayers, who asked for lower costs, a phased project and focus on the greatest need. It is a win for the Wa-Hi staff who collectively agree the science department has the greatest immediate needs, but who also know so much more needs to be done.
Most important, this is a big win for our kids who are not displaced during construction and by early 2016 will have laboratory science classrooms that meet current needs as well as the additional needs resulting from the new legislation increasing graduation science requirements from two to three years.
I urge you to vote yes for this win-win-win Wa-Hi science building bond.