Thursday, March 6, 2014
Yes, it does seem as if the Walla Walla School Board is moving with lightning speed as it considers asking voters to approve a $10 million science building on the Wa-Hi campus.
Nevertheless, this is exactly the type of proposal voters seem to be asking for — and that they will approve.
A decision by Friday is needed to get the proposal on the April 22 ballot.
Unfortunately, the School Board hit a bump out of the starting block.
On Monday the school district’s Community Facilities Task Force opted not to endorse the plan to build a stand-alone science building. Instead, the Task Force asked for more time — 60 days — to review several options larger in scope than the one the School Board is considering.
That timeline could put a building measure at best on the August ballot and delay construction for perhaps a year.
Construction beyond a new science building would likely doom any improvements at Wa-Hi for several years.
The community, through myriad surveys and polls, has targeted the science building as the greatest need in the school district, and it appears to be willing to fund it.
Without details, we can’t yet recommend voters approve the plan at the election. However, it seems prudent to put a proposal on the ballot.
Supporters of the plan will have ample time to inform the public of the exact specifics, including costs.
Getting it on the April ballot will allow construction to start about a year from now. The new science building would be located in the parking lot next to the current science building and the vocational building.
Wa-Hi students simply can’t wait for a new science building. The current building is now too small with sections of rooms jury-rigged into makeshift labs. The state is likely adding more science requirements to better prepare students for college (and life), so more science classrooms will be needed in the coming years.
The Edison School bond comes off the books at the end of 2018, which now hovers around the $1.25 per $1,000. When that happens, it will be an opportunity to consider the next move at Wa-Hi.
Going small (relatively speaking) will also provide plenty of time to assess the loss of about 350 College Place students to its new high school.
However, some strong supporters of a complete overhaul of Wa-Hi are holding out for a bigger project than just the science building.
That’s been discussed and discussed. Frankly the reality — at least the way we see it — is that anything larger than a $10 million science building is too risky and isn’t likely to be embraced by the community.
This is the right time to put this proposal on the ballot.