Visions of the future

A tour of Walla Walla’s public schools reveals a district with forward-looking programs, but outdated facilities.

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WALLA WALLA — Despite the floor-to-ceiling windows along one wall, the physics lab at Walla Walla High School is underlit. Bundles of wires and powerstrips dangle from the room’s computers and the six lab tables in the middle of the room leave little room for anything else.

The sulfurish glow from the room’s fluorescent lights only serves to make it feel even more cramped and outdated.

Any other school administrator would likely have steered visitors away from the room, but Wa-Hi Principal Peter Peterson made a point to show it off as part of the School District’s Patron’s Tour Wednesday. The lab was evidence for Peterson’s argument that despite Wa-Hi’s pretty facade, it needs a serious overhaul.

“We’re not as much overcrowded as we are outdated,” Peterson said to the group. “The fact of the matter is that the building we have needs to be updated.

“When people drive by and look at the school, it’s going to look good. It’s very well kept. It’s just old.”

Wa-Hi wasn’t the only school featured in the tour, Lincoln High School and Prospect Point Elementary were also on the agenda. The tour group consisted of Whitman and Walla Walla Community College professors and students, officials from the Port of Walla Walla, officials from other school districts and members of the community at large.

The District began offering Patron’s Tours in the fall of 2010 as a way to both show what its students were accomplishing and show to taxpayers that facilities upgrades are needed. The next tour is slated for March 26.

“We’re putting out students that are equal to or better than any in the state,” Superintendent Mick Miller said after the tour. “The only thing that’s holding us back is the facilities.”

Lincoln, built in 1927, is also in dire need of either a new facility or extensive renovation — the District’s facilities committee recommended new construction — but it holds the most up-to-date science lab in the District, science teacher Erik Gordon said.

And at Prospect Point, fifth-graders are already learning computer programming skills via Code.org’s Intro to Computer Programming.

One of Wa-Hi’s most tech-forward classes is the digital media technologies class taught by Dennis DeBroeck.

In it, students learn a wide range of skills, such as 3D modeling and animation, 3D printing, gaming production and more.

The program will expand to the under-construction Southeast Area Tech Skills Center when it opens for students next fall.

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