Wa-Hi needs work, but not $70 million worth


The proposal to modernize Walla Walla High School, at a total cost of almost $70 million, is almost as ridiculous as it is insulting.

The insulting part is that the School Board thinks we voters should accept this enormous price tag and not question the wisdom of it.

It is a fact that Walla Walla High School student numbers will be significantly reduced when students from College Place are no longer there. Yet this $48 million school bond includes such waste as building more restrooms in the academic building, music and drama building, science and math building, fitness center and vocational career technical education building.

In addition, larger classrooms and expanded parking for students and faculty are planned. How does building interior hallways, instead of using existing breezeways, improve learning? Is there something wrong with fresh air?

Other expansions include more music classrooms, more practice rooms, more administrative spaces, an elevator for attic storage, a new kitchen addition and larger cafeteria. We will be paying for millions of dollars in expansion costs for a high school that is actually decreasing in student numbers.

There is no indication Walla Walla will be experiencing any real population growth in the next decade. I support spending money to modernize and maintain our high school. However, modernizing and maintaining does not mean spending $70 million to build bigger parking lots, more bathrooms, larger classrooms and elevators to nowhere.

The Walla Walla School Board members are way overreaching on this project. They remind me of car salesmen who want you to believe that even though your current vehicle looks good and runs good, now is the best time to buy that $60,000 SUV, because later on they are only going to get more expensive.

I say give Walla Walla High School a new engine and paint job, at a cost of about $5 million instead of $48 million, and it will serve our students well for many more years.

Vote “no” for this ridiculous proposal, and force the Walla Walla School Board and superintendant to come up with a common-sense alternative that goes easy on our pocketbooks, yet improves the educational experience for our students.

Jeffery C. Bickle

Walla Walla



fatherof5 says...

To address just a few of these concerns.... My daughter's English teacher broke her foot last fall while hauling boxes full of books down a tall flight of stairs from a storage room in the "attic" of the Academic Building. The elevator will give much greater and safer access to a ton of space up there that is currently difficult and unsafe to use.

The new interior hallways are intended to improve security and energy efficiency, since all of the classrooms currently have doors that open to the outside elements. This will save money over time it terms of power bills and make the buildings far easier to secure if there is a threat on campus.

After the College Place bond passed, the Wa-Hi remodel plans were reduced by about $10 million to account for the anticipated loss of 350 students. Remember, there are also a dozen or so "temporary" portables on campus that will be re-absorbed into the school if the bond passes, which brings another 300 or so students back into the main buildings, where they should be. There are practical reasons for each part of the proposed remodel. Your $5 million proposal doesn't even fix the woefully inadequate science rooms, let alone any of the other issues that have accumulated over 50 years.

Posted 20 January 2013, 9:36 a.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...

Re: Broken foot.... Eliminating all of the stairs this teacher might encounter is a stupid point...
Re: Downsizing of scope of work due to CP students leaving... It just means it was 10 Million more over our budget... Almost 70 Million is way too much to do now!
Also.... Federal matching money(s) are still coming from taxes...

Posted 20 January 2013, 9:38 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

The point about the stairs is that there is a great deal of potential in utilizing the upstairs space, which is currently under-utilized due to the poor access. The idea is to make better use of what already exists rather than building new storage areas at a higher cost. That's a stupid point?

Posted 20 January 2013, 11:33 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

You can build a 4 ton elevator for Approx $50,000.00 - Utilize the space and save $68 million dollars - fatherof5 - years ago I had an ole 45 player that after a while the records would get a nick and the needle would get stuck. Your comments are about the same!

Posted 21 January 2013, 6:07 a.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

I used to have a 45 player like that, too. It kept skipping in the same spot in Billy Joel's "Piano Man" right around "he's talkin' with Davy, who's still in the Navy." To this day, I still expect to hear that skip in the same place every time that song plays on my I-Pod.

Do you know why I no longer have that 45 player? There comes a time when it makes sense to acknowledge what no longer works and invest in new technology. The future is now, namvet. Come join us!

Posted 21 January 2013, 11:18 a.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

Yes and I'll bet that your whole family has an IPod and probably each of you drive an expensive energy efficient vehicle but you see I work within my budget. Some of you people like to spend other peoples money that's why you have all the new technology. Why don't you lobby to utilize the recently passed school levy that is being used in its usual worthless capability.

Posted 22 January 2013, 5:49 a.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

You make a number of assumptions, namvet, as does Mr. Bickle's letter, and you sometimes confuse those assumptions for facts. My "energy efficient vehicle" is not a $20,000 Prius, but rather a 1993 Honda Civic that cost me $2,500 and gets 37 mpg. My I-Pod came free in the mail as part of a promotion I signed up for a few years ago. What I've done is to utilize cost-efficient methods enabling me to adopt newer technologies.

The Wa-Hi bond does the same.

The bond reduces the original plans by $10 million due to the new College Place HS; it saves on construction costs by taking advantage of today's low interest loans and competitive construction rates, and by utilizing existing roofs, beams and foundations; it cuts the total bill by nearly 1/3 by taking advantage of state matching funds; it also cuts future costs by converting the school to energy-efficient technologies, and by putting a stop to the daily transport of our track and tennis athletes to offsite facilities.

To return to your 45 record player, namvet, Wa-Hi is currently an analog building struggling to educate students for a digital world. That just plain isn't acceptable. The bond brings Wa-Hi up to date, but does so creatively and as efficiently as possible...like I did with my I-Pod and my '93 Honda. Due to these strategies, we will get a large, comprehensive, 21st century high school for $48 million, when it could have cost twice that amount to achieve the same outcome. No, it's not free like my I-Pod was -- most things in life are not free -- but it won't skip anymore like a beat-up old record player.

Posted 22 January 2013, 1:54 p.m. Suggest removal

goldlizard says...

I'm not a rich man by any sense. I'm voting yes because the need is there. Will it stretch my budget? Yes. Will it be easy? No. Does it need to happen? Yes. Take a tour of WaHi and you will see that it needs to get done. It especially is important when looking at the technology needs and science building needs. The comment about the portables is valid. Right now WaHi has 15 classrooms in portables. If they have 20 kids in each class, they have more than that by the way, you are looking at 300 students they need to put back into WaHi classrooms. The numbers will be very close to the number of students leaving for College Place. As it is space is limited. Adding space matters. Adding Technology Matters. Finally the kids of Walla Walla matter. As for me and my friends and family we are voting yes because it is the right thing to do.

Posted 22 January 2013, 12:35 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

Through all of the smoke and mirrors I'm happy that you just don't comprehend the fact that with the cost of living, health insurance, taxes going through the roof some people will not live long enough to see this bond paid off. So if this bond goes through I will be in the process of making a move after 3 yrs thinking that this was a decent place to move to. I don't know how much it cost the Tourism & convention authority to get voted the friendliest town most surely didn't take into consideration the citizens living in this area.

Posted 22 January 2013, 6:02 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

So where would you move, namvet? Didn't you read [Mrs. Ladderud's letter][1] about regional bond rates? In five years, if the Wa-Hi bond passes, our rates will be $1.15 per $1,000. I'll quote her for the rest:

"Out of eight school districts near us, only Richland, with a $1.21 per $1,000 assessed value, currently has a bond tax rate slightly lower than Walla Walla’s current bond rate of $1.27."

"Richland is voting on a $98 million bond this February to do $130 million of construction projects, including replacing three elementary schools that were built in 1971. To compare: Prospect Point is Walla Walla’s oldest elementary and was built in 1972; Wa-Hi was built in 1963."

"Bond rates in all these neighboring communities are higher than Walla Walla and are as follows: Touchet at $1.49, Kennewick at $1.65 (it ran a bond in 2009 that narrowly failed), Pasco at $2.24 (it is running a $46.8 million bond for three large elementary schools), Waitsburg at $2.55, College Place at $2.67 and Burbank’s bond and capital project tax at $3.43. "

[1]: http://union-bulletin.com/news/2013/j...

Posted 22 January 2013, 7:05 p.m. Suggest removal

Mochadelicious says...

After looking over the WWHS website and proposal slideshow, I am left to believe that they have a bad case of wanting to keep up with the Jones' (AKA: Kamiakin, Richland and Mead HS). I too would love a million dollar house and a Porshe parked in the driveway, but I wouldn't dare ask my fellow Walla Wallans to foot the bill. Too bad WA-HI doesn't have the same common courtesy.

There is definitely some updating that needs to be done, but I feel that about half of what they are proposing is just frivolous spending. Schools don't have to be super big and modern to be productive.

Posted 22 January 2013, 9:15 p.m. Suggest removal

notpeggyhuntington says...

I am curious as to what aspects of the proposal you consider frivolous. Have you toured the high school?
As community-minded taxpayers, don't we want our youth provided with opportunities that modern schools provide? Which half of the proposal would you cut, if it were up to you?

Posted 22 January 2013, 10:44 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

Trust me it wouldn't be in the state of WA but I just don't care to be browbeat as Mochadelicious stated - Keeping up with the Jones is greed and when the rates do go up obviously the economy will be better and able to afford the increase. Until then we should see how the tide flows. I see that fatherof5 does not like to address situations such as insurance, taxes and cost of living going through the roof. Don't look at the current but just dig that hole a little deeper. I wouldn't expect to pay on anything for 20 years at my age!

Posted 23 January 2013, 6:06 a.m. Suggest removal

Mochadelicious says...

For one, I would cut the remodel of the commons and parking lots. They are losing 350 kids...why do they need expansion in those areas? Also, I believe the library and the music room that is currently off the auditorium was built in the early 90's. After 20 years they already want to remodel these areas? Seems like a waste. And do we really need 2 more tennis courts? So what if we can't have the boys and girls tournaments at the same time. Come on people...our pockets aren't that deep. I don't care if timing is good due to tax rates. I wouldn't go out and get a loan on a million dollar house just because the interest rates are at an all time low.

Posted 23 January 2013, 11:37 a.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

Mochadelicious, I appreciate your specific response to notpeggy. Since you asked why some of these things are needed, I'll try to address the three biggest ones on your list.

Parking: As a parent, I can tell you that the current parking areas are hazardous and horribly inefficient. I don't have the space here to explain it all, but I've lived through it on an almost daily basis. Currently it is chaotic, slow and not safe. The new plan offers practical solutions to some serious problems. From my perspective, fixing this is not a luxury.

The Commons: My kids tell me they often wait in lines in the cafeteria for up to 2/3 of their lunch time and then have trouble finding seats. The upgraded commons solves that, and creates opportunities for a centralized indoor "hub" for students to gather before and after school. A student store would likely be included for the marketing classes, and I'm told that two banks have already expressed interest in setting up checking and savings opportunities there for students to learn firsthand about money management. The new space creates a number of new opportunities.

Auditorium: The current music rooms lack practice rooms and the current drama program lacks any rooms at all beside the actual theater. (Try conducting drama classes and play rehearsals when other groups and events are using the auditorium.) The added choir and band rooms allow for choir and band sectional rehearsals, while freeing up their "old" rooms for much needed drama storage, a small performance space and other activities not possible today or conceived of when the auditorium complex was built a generation ago. The auditorium itself would benefit from expansion for a variety of purposes, but it will remain as it is to limit costs.

Posted 23 January 2013, 7:12 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

If they were to utilize non-union contractors they could cut the cost again by a third!

Posted 23 January 2013, 6:30 p.m. Suggest removal

Myinput says...

Amen to that. But, we all know that non-union is not an option - too bad. While I think there is a need as well, my biggest question right now is about how they came up with the cost for the bond.

Have they actually received any actual bids? Or are they are just throwing out numbers based on what?

Posted 24 January 2013, 7:20 a.m. Suggest removal

Mochadelicious says...

I appreciate your explanation above, but I still feel that once WA-HI loses the extra 350 kids, it will help solve a lot of the parking issues. Same for the commons...once the kids are gone, long lines and space won't be as much of an issue. Yeah...it would be "neat" if they had a circular hub like Mead HS to gather before and after school, but why can't they can do that in the current commons?

As for the music rooms, my question still stands. Why didn't they incorporate these extra rooms back in 1991 when the auditorium was originally built? Same question for the library. It seems wrong to fix these boo-boos now at the tax payers expense.

As I mentioned before, I'm not saying that some remodeling doesn't need to be done...I think it does. The science and academic building really do need some work to expand the classrooms and update the heating/cooling efficiency. I think storage needs to be addressed along with updated science fixtures, technology and more outlets in all the classrooms. These are all functional items that I see teachers and students putting to good use.

With being in a recession and many people out of work and behind on their bills already, pockets don't run very deep. Fix the necessary items, but leave the things that aren't broke.

Posted 24 January 2013, 1:02 a.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

myinput, here is a [link][1] to the page that breaks down the estimated costs. As you will see from the following link, these figures are put together by [an architectural firm][2] that has quite a bit of experience in designing schools. So, that's where the numbers come from. I hope that's helpful.

Mochadelicious, it sounds like you and I agree on the biggest ticket items (i.e. science and academic buildings), but not on some of the smaller ones. For me, this is a great opportunity to deal with these issues all at once, rather than try another Wa-Hi bond in another 5-10 years and risk turning the campus into a perpetual construction zone. As for the economy, the bulk of this 20 year bond will likely be paid in better economic times, and interest rates are at all-time lows now. The question for folks in your position is whether or not you can support a bond that does a lot of what you agree with, but isn't exactly the way you would have put it together. I hope you will choose to vote "yes," but obviously that's your call.

[1]: http://www.wwps.org/atoz/pdfs/wahibon...
[2]: http://www.blrb.com/studio/2/

Posted 24 January 2013, 8:50 a.m. Suggest removal

sneakerhead says...

Father of 5 you must have deep pockets and too much time on your hands! Are you on school board????

Posted 25 January 2013, 9:35 a.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

Ha! Funny, wwcco. I wish the first two were true...not so sure I'd want to be on the school board, though. (They take too much crap, considering they are volunteering their time, taking on some tough issues, and trying to do what's best for kids.)

As I've written on other posts, I'm a dad who wanted to see some balance on the U-B comments regarding the bond. I assure you, my willingness to pay for this bond is not because of deep pockets. Hopefully, between namvet, barracuda, and some others, our dialogue has been helpful to some folks who are on the fence.

Posted 25 January 2013, 2:14 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

fatherof5 - one last time - its your theories that are bogus: 1 - you try to insert the fear that if this new school is not built immediately the future generations will graduate as illiterates 2 - where does this $70 million number come from? explain how you could possibly take $70 million and build 35,000 homes and resale for $200,000. And your using the original school structure. Does these classrooms have individual seat warmers and a walking escalator for the students. I would bet that this number is from a consulting firm (probably from Seattle) that use the Union formula of $.40 on the dollar for labor and the end result there will be a lot of nice new fancy cars being bought to say "see what your new High School provided". That sentence may be a little facetious but you get the drift. As you indicated in your last post your balance is not even close to reality.

Posted 26 January 2013, 7:24 a.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

I let my zero's get a little carried away but you get the point!

Posted 26 January 2013, 8:10 a.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

1. I didn't say kids would be illiterates without the bond. That would be hyperbolic. What I have said is that without this bond, their education will continue to fall short of what it could be in some meaningful ways.

2. The $69 million figure comes from working with BLRB Architects. They've built lots of schools and it looks like they use aggregate data from other projects and apply it to the square footage of the Wa-Hi remodel. This info is all on the Bond Cost Summary pdf on the district's website. (And yes, I forgive the extra zeros...you do have zeal.)

I'm not sure how long it's been since you have built or rebuilt a 21st century comprehensive high school, but it isn't cheap. The district has every reason to want to do this as affordably as possible and has taken advantage of state matching funds, existing infrastructure, and today's low interest rates to give us the best deal they could, while at the same time addressing the needs of the school.

Posted 26 January 2013, 2:22 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

Just as clarification I have been involved with construction. The projects were building casinos w/rooms attached and we built some very nice casinos for 2/3rds of the cost that this high school will cost. Of course it was in a Right to Work state so we didn't have to support the Unions!

Posted 26 January 2013, 4:21 p.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...

I see it now.... "FatherofEVERYTHING" will not let you "win" any conversations... He will twist our words until we look and "hopefully" feel stupid for not seeing things his way.... I am just giving it up. But I am going to step my face to face talks of expensive schools! We just have to slow down the spending!

Fatherof Everything....
The truth of the matter is... CP is a great school district to compare to, We basically live in the same "metro" area... We all shop at the same stores.... We all buy wine at the same winery's.... We all go outside of town to buy major purchases (nice mall) etc. We all work side by side....
I'll bet there is a chart/graph that show what we in Washington state pays per kid (average). CP has a lot less students so they should be paying less to maintain less school building infrastructure. But we all should be paying about the same rate per student.

Posted 27 January 2013, 11:16 a.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

barracuda, I assume you are right that the "state's per-student funding" to operate CP and WW schools is probably similar. So, I did some quick math as for the "*local* per-student funding" when it comes to bonds. CP will have 1,150 K-12 students when the new high school is built. WW will drop to 6,000 students. The CP bond is $38 million (local contribution). The WW bond is $48 million, plus whatever we still owe for the last bond. (I couldn't find that figure online. Is it $10 million? $20 million? I don't know, but whatever is left will be paid off in five years.)

For WW citizens to owe a comparable "per student" debt as CP (since their debt is $33,000 per student), we would need to have a bond debt total of $198 million. In fact, our bond debt total will be way less than half of that if the bond passes and will be 1/4 of that amount in five years. This is why I wrote earlier that CP is not a great example for you.

I'm okay with not winning every conversation, barracuda, but you are not going to beat me if your argument is that Walla Walla spends too much on kids compared to other communities. Factually speaking, we simply do not.

Posted 27 January 2013, 3:07 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

barracuda - did you notice in todays paper that Touchet is being sensible about it and only spending 6.5 million for a remodel even at the size of that city. But the comment that stated it would be disgraceful to have a bond close and let a few of us get back into anything other than a lower middle class (if there is such a thing) and even take a short vacation that I have not been able to enjoy for some time. In the last 3 years my property taxes alone have gone up $400 and that's not saying anything about all of the other taxes that never seem to get to the tasks that they were passed for. Well if this passes I hope that these people just remember they were the ones to pass on the debt to there children and grandchildren because in 20 years who knows what will happen.

Posted 27 January 2013, 1:17 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

namvet, you and I finally agree! Touchet's $6.5 million bond addresses some obvious needs there and should be passed. Did you also read in that article that the cost per homeowner would add $1.66 per $1,000. Did you know that at $ .68 per $1,000 the Wa-Hi bond would add less than half that amount?

Touchet High School has less than 100 students and you call $6.5 million "sensible." Wa-Hi is more than 15 times larger but is asking just 8 times more money than Touchet's bond. Wouldn't that make the Wa-Hi bond twice as sensible? Barracuda doesn't want me to win any more discussions, but you are making it hard. :)

Posted 27 January 2013, 3:35 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

OK - this will be the last time I address anything from your post. I received my ballot Sat and performed my civic duty and deposited it in the ballot box. Then it made me think of while I was putting that single dot on the ballot how much it cost the taxpayers to have this vote in between election cycles instead of waiting for the regular election ballot to have it added. Obviously some people just don't have a clue! Now for the Touchet remodel - compare $70 million to $7 million. There are so many things to take into consideration. How many bonds (taxes) do they currently pay on there property taxes. For the amount on this one remodel probably doesn't come close to what we currently pay plus adding more on. So you people have a greedy day and keep the laborious task of stripping the public of more money!

Posted 28 January 2013, 5:55 a.m. Suggest removal

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