New Wa-Hi does not have to be fancy


Buyer beware.

First and foremost, I’m not against students getting a good school to learn in or better classrooms to teach in for the teachers.

Here’s the problem:

The $48 million being asked for the Walla Walla High School bond is an estimate, not a fact of the cost. The dreamers who thought up the amount have not received a bid from contractors, firm costs of an architectural design or any other set amount, according to the fact sheet sent in the mail.

They’re selling you something that has no firm price tag for the project. Will the contractor they choose guarantee the work after it is done against defects (example: leaky roof in a year and a half).

Will the contractor do the project for the price that was bid after it starts work or ask for more money to finish?

Why is all the fancy landscaping being done or going to extremes on the inside that raise costs?

That only helps make the School Board and principal and superintendent look good. The students are not going to care that much or get use out of extremely fancy stuff.

The buildings are for the students, not for the School Board or the administration to boast about. Look at the extreme picture shown on the front of the fact sheet.

The students already attending Wa-Hi are going to suffer during construction because their classes will be in portable classrooms.

Next the School Board will likely ask for several million dollars for Lincoln High to be remodeled or a new school built. That means more increased taxes.

Answer to problem: Get a citizens’ group together that cares about the students only. When the bond passes the citizens group keeps close account of how and where the money is spent, not siphoned off for something besides the building.

All money is subject to greed. Don’t trust sticky fingers — no swimming pools.

Robert Fastenow

Walla Walla



campbell_rd says...

Exactly, some of the best schools keep the building designs simple to concentrate on learning. A lot of the schools today look more like commercial buildings with fancy designs. Do our children learn better with grand architecture and manicured landscaping? NO, they don’t! They learn better when they have four plain walls with a window or two. We need to concentrate on learning and teaching our children. Not concentrating on huge, complex buildings that are aesthetically pretty, especially with the budget issues facing America these days. My budget has been trimmed considerably these days, should education (building) expenses be any different?

Posted 18 January 2013, 9:13 p.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...

I agree... Keep it very simple.... I am concerned that we are too extravigant, (at this time for my budget!)

Posted 19 January 2013, 9:34 a.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

campbell_rd, this plan saves money by using the existing buildings. These structures are, indeed, "aesthetically pretty" (from the outside, at least), but it would cost a heck of a lot more to tear them down and replace them with "plain" buildings. Is that what you would propose? This is a conservative, cost-conscious plan. The "manicured landscaping" to which you refer consists of mowing the lawn.

Posted 19 January 2013, 10:47 a.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

From some of the comments coming from teachers and parents it is obvious the mindset of those individuals relate to the design of the school will make their children smarter. I totally agree with the letter writer that the intelligence comes from the student themselves not from the glamour and expensive design of the learning facility.

Posted 19 January 2013, 8:32 a.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

Mr. Fastenow: First, the $69 million total figure ($48 million from us) is not a “dream,” but was developed in partnership with BLRB Architects, whose portfolio [HERE][1] demonstrates their extensive real-world experience in building and remodeling schools.

Second, bond projects like these are always “estimates” at this stage. That's how it works. That's also why it is important to work with a reputable architectural firm like BLRB. Contracts will go out to bid, and legal precautions are put in place to ensure the project comes in at or under cost. This is also how it works. If there are any extra funds, they will be returned to us taxpayers. (That formal decision has been made.) There can be no “swimming pools” or additional projects beyond what is specified in the bond.

Third, most of the “fancy landscaping” to which you refer already exists. The sweeping expanse of lawn, the winding creek, and the trees are, indeed, beautiful...and perhaps look luxurious to you...but they are already there. So is the blue sky. The [artist's rendering][2] shows this, plus some new concrete and brick in the new parking/entry areas. These latter materials are functional and last a long time. Artists' renderings are supposed to look inspiring, but in reality all that is added is some brick and concrete. This is a pragmatic plan, not a fancy one. It consistently saves money by using materials throughout the campus – including the roofs, columns, beams, foundations, and yes, landscapes - that are already there.

Finally, what special insight allows you to declare publicly that this plan was somehow developed for the glory of the school board members or the administration? I know some of them and can tell you flatly that you are wrong. They serve because they want to help kids. Do you know different? This sounds like a conspiratorial ad hominem argument, and it undermines the credibility of your other positions.

If, as you say, you really are not opposed to teachers and students having good facilities in which to teach and learn, my suggestion is that you [take a tour][3] of the school and meet with Superintendent Mick Miller with your concerns. If he doesn't have good answers, then go public again, but don't malign the project or the people before you have taken the time to know what you are talking about. (My impression is that you wrote your letter based solely on your reaction to a flier you got in the mail.) Too many kids are depending upon this bond to pass for us to be spreading misinformation.


Posted 19 January 2013, 10:14 a.m. Suggest removal says...

The trend in public infrastructure over the past decade leans more toward aesthetics than function. At best, a public building design is half aesthetics and half function. While no one wants ugly buildings, any good steward of public funds should value function and efficiency over form. Ostentatious displays on public construction leads one to wonder about the base motives of the officials involved. The above comments are not without cause across the country.

As for the estimate.....that's exactly the issue. Passing a bond is giving the board a free pass to spend it as they wish. This was a major concern last December, when the board voted to pay down the bond should excess funds be available. The board is accountable to the tax payers.

Posted 19 January 2013, 1:49 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

red_dog, I would agree with you and take it a step further that I would require 95% function over aesthetics in order to gain my support. If it also happens to look nice, then that's gravy.

That's why I support this bond. It is exceedingly pragmatic as it systematically addresses the needs at Wa-Hi from classroom size to energy efficiency. I've read the plan and attended presentations about it, and there are no frills that I can see. It is true that Wa-Hi is blessed with a beautiful campus setting, which might make this "functional" design appear "ostentatious," but the district has gone to great lengths to have the biggest possible impact while keeping costs down. If you are on the fence, I'd call the district and ask questions, or take one of the tours to learn more.

Posted 19 January 2013, 5 p.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...

Question for Fatherof5...
Are you the designated spokesperson member of the vote for Wa-hi committee? It seems like you know everything about this vote... Or at least you telling us you do...
I know, I too seem to be on here a lot..I just know how this vote will affect me... You, on the otherhand, seem to know how it is going to affect everybody else in town. One good thing about it is...If we just wait a minute after a new post, you explain how we should feel about the new posting! F.Y.I.... I have looked at the videos, I have taken a tour of WA-Hi, and talked to fellow voters... I just seem to not have come to the same conclusions you tell us to have. For all of the pre-stated reasons...
Thanks again for telling how i should feel...

Posted 19 January 2013, 5:22 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

barracuda, as I've said before, I was persuaded to support the bond when I saw a presentation a couple of months ago. I'm not designated to do anything. I currently have five kids in the district, three of whom would benefit from the passage of this bond, which I think makes sense not only for my kids, but for the next generation of kids.

I signed up for a U-B account last month when I read a some posts that I believed were spreading misinformation about the bond and to which I wasn't seeing a counter-argument. It's one thing to oppose the bond because you don't think there is a legitimate need or because you don't think the community will get good value; it's another thing to oppose it because you've "heard" fictitious stuff about board members wanting to bask in the glory of this project or "fancy landscaping" being a major driver of cost. Those things just aren't true. I'm here to set the record straight to the best of my ability based on my understanding of it. You can feel about it however you wish. I believe that most people who tour the school and see the issues first-hand will support the bond. If they don't, then at least they will have come to that conclusion based on the facts.

Posted 19 January 2013, 6:40 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

However it is presented with all the video available and all the hullabaloo about how it is a requirement for the education of the children it still hasn't increased by monthly income and it most certainly doesn't impress me with all the uncertainties involved.

Posted 20 January 2013, 12:51 p.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...

Good point!

Posted 20 January 2013, 9:20 p.m. Suggest removal

goldlizard says...

Some people are never happy. Seems Barracuda and Namvet60 don't like it... ok. That's your right but I also think you are wrong. As for a school that is plain... let me ask you where you would rather work. I know as a student if I went into a school that was as blah as you are describing I would not be very interested in learning. Secondly and most importantly if I had to learn in a tightly clustered classroom with no room, out of date equipment and lab space, and heating and air that rarely worked I would struggle. Lets do the right thing and pass the bond... JMHO

Posted 22 January 2013, 12:43 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

goldlizard - are you there to get an education or to admire the interior design?

Posted 22 January 2013, 6:04 p.m. Suggest removal

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