Saturday, March 15, 2014
“Perfect is the enemy of good.”
Those words, credited to 17th century French philosopher Voltaire, seem to have some relevance in the ongoing (and seemingly endless) effort to upgrade the Walla Walla High School facilities.
Some fervently want to see a complete overhaul of campus — the sooner the better.
But voters have rejected bond proposals that would have done just that. The efforts failed for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest seems to be they were seen by many as too large and/or too expensive.
The message from the community seemed to be go smaller, revamp Wa-Hi in several phases over time.
This put Walla Walla School District officials in a tricky spot. What does smaller mean? Would renovating half the campus be small enough or does smaller mean targeting a few specific needs?
Ultimately, the School Board decided just a day before the deadline to put a $10 million bond on the April 22 ballot to build a stand-alone science building.
Not everyone is happy. Some hoped for a bigger project, some an even smaller project and others envisioned remodeling an existing building so the project would qualify for state matching funds. In addition, the 11th-hour decision to put it on the ballot was seen by a few as a rush job.
Without a doubt the timing could have been better. Politically, it would have made the project an easier sell if it had been unveiled weeks, instead of days, before putting it on the ballot.
But at this point, there is no turning back. The proposal on the ballot is the only one voters will consider.
It seems to be a well-reasoned proposal.
The current science building is not designed to accommodate the number of science classes required nor the hands-on lab work. This is a huge disservice to students. Targeting science as the area of improvement is prudent.
Putting the new building where the staff parking lot is now means students won’t be displaced during construction. That’s a plus.
A new building provides flexibility as it opens the current science building to other uses. Wa-Hi is now using portables to accommodate the current overflow of students at the school, originally built for three — not four — grades.
Now that College Place High School is opening in the fall (ninth grade only next year) the impact of losing about 85 students a year over the next four years can be assessed accurately.
This plan isn’t perfect, but it does seem to be a good one. Sometimes good is good enough.
Given the differences of opinion on the direction that should be taken revamping Wa-Hi, a relatively modest plan with flexibility could be just what’s needed at this time.
This is a bond proposal the community should get behind and support. It’s needed for the students’ future as well as Walla Walla’s.