Renovation of Wa-Hi necessary

We urge voters to approve the $48 million bond to fund the $69.6 million project.


Walla Walla High School, after 50 years, still looks like a picture on a postcard. Yellowhawk Creek flows through the middle of a campus where red brick buildings are surrounded by green grass and tall trees.

But it’s not pretty inside most of those buildings.

The biggest problems are in the classrooms, which are too small to fit 30 or more students comfortably. The rooms have few power outlets and no wiring to accommodate high-tech devices such as computers. Classrooms have no air conditioning, leaving students sweltering in the fall and spring.

The older generation should think of it like this — it’s like the Jetsons trying to cope in a school from the Flintstones’ world.

Wa-Hi’s science building has even more problems, all serious enough to make learning far more challenging than it needs to be. The lab space is too small, resulting in students being crammed together. The infrastructure necessary to conduct hands-on science experiments isn’t there. Teachers have to jerry-rig classrooms to construct makeshift lab spaces. Students miss out on the full lab experience most of the other students around the state experience.

Wa-Hi needs a complete overhaul. A $69.6 million renovation project has been proposed. Voters will decide on Feb. 12 whether to approve the $48 million bond, which would then qualify the school district for $21.6 million in matching funds.

The district has come up with a solid, cost-effective plan. The science and academic buildings will technically be remodeled because the foundations and roofs will be reused. However, those buildings will essentially be new. Reusing material trims construction costs, qualifies the project for a larger amount of state matching funds and — perhaps most importantly — will result in the new Wa-Hi looking much like the current Wa-Hi.

We understand approving a property tax increase to cover a $48 million bond in today’s lousy economic climate will not be easy for voters. Folks are seriously thinking about whether the added tax is worth revamping Wa-Hi.

But they should also consider what value an upgraded Wa-Hi brings to the entire community. Wa-Hi will become a point of pride and make this a more attractive place to relocate.

And school officials have found a way to soften the blow to taxpayers.

The 21-year bond will initially result in homeowners paying 68 cents more per $1,000 of the appraised value of their property. The 2012 rate is $1.27.

The $11 million bond for the renovation of Sharpstein Elementary School was paid off in December. The amount paid on the Sharpstein bond essentially transfers to the Wa-Hi bond. This will then be added to the payment for the Edison Elementary bond, which will be paid off in 2018.

So, if the Wa-Hi bond passes the total cost of school construction bonds will be about $1.95 per $1,000 through 2018. The rate drops to $1.15 when the Edison bond is paid off.

We believe the added property tax is a solid investment in the public school system and this community. We urge voters to approve the bond.



fatherof5 says...

This editorial summarizes the bond well. As a parent, I would add that if you've ever tried dropping off your kids right before school or picked them up after...or been stuck trying to leave the Big Gym after an event, the new parking plan will be a great relief for efficiency and safety. Here's a [link][1] to the district's website where people can learn more about the bond and the campus tours they are offering.


Posted 20 January 2013, 9:50 a.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

goldlizard said it best a few days ago when he posted this, which deserves another reading:

"Listen I am as conservative as they come and I hate to give my hard earned money to anyone, especially the government or any department they have under their control... Check my previous comments on this site and you'll see... I've been around WaHi for a couple years now. I have had family graduate from there and have family attending there. I have two boys 5 and 1. I've been in the classrooms and have worked inside the buildings. I'm telling you as honestly as I can that this school needs the remodel done... Period. It does not meet the needs of the students anymore, especially with the technology demands that are increasing every year. We are putting our kids in the hole. The heat and Air don't work, the technology is not up to snuff by a long shot, and the different departments are doing their best McGyvering to get the job done with really old facilities. The record of our teachers here in the valley is a good one. I have never worked with a more devoted group of people in my life. Drive by WaHi at night and see how many teachers are putting in extra hours. Ask a teacher how much of their own money they spend every year on their students. Our population is changing, needs are changing, Standards are changing and we are busting our rears to stay ahead and be the leaders we always have been in the state. If you want a comparison look at our school compared to Pasco or other schools with our population. The sad thing is... we could be sooo much better with the remodel and the proper facilities. We need this remodel to best serve the kids here. I don't rent, I pay a mortgage like most of you and I'm voting yes because I know the need is real. I also know that right now we get the best bang for our buck! If you come and see the school and really look at the issue... you'll do the same. JMHO."

Posted 20 January 2013, 11:44 p.m. Suggest removal

Log in to comment