Sunday, March 23, 2014
A couple of my friends want to support schools, but they maintain some skepticism about spending $10 million. Their concerns about April’s bond to build a new science building at Walla Walla High School focus on: 1) the impact of College Place, 2) the other projects in Walla Walla and 3) the $10 million cost.
My friends ask, “Why not wait for the new high school in College Place?”
To be blunt, College Place is a nonissue for this bond. Wa-Hi will still have roughly 1,500 students taking multiple years of science in small, ill-equipped classrooms. Class sizes (currently over 30 in many classes) won’t go down, because Wa-Hi will lose a proportionate number of teachers.
I have also heard: “So, why aren’t Lincoln or the other Wa-Hi projects important anymore?”
The answer is they still are. The bond failed in 2013 that would have comprehensively fixed Wa-Hi. The subsequent listening sessions and surveys indicated most “no” voters wanted these projects prioritized and spread out in “phases.” So, the district is responding to the will of the voters by spreading out those projects, including Lincoln, and starting with the most dire one.
“So, why does it cost $10 million?”
Detailed answers can be found on the district’s fact page. In short, the $268 per square foot is right in line for a school building with specialized plumbing, gas and ventilation needs. The remaining 25 percent is for permits, project management, taxes and other nonnegotiable costs. The intent is to construct a quality building made to last, but without extravagance. Any excess funds will be returned to the voters.
It is worth noting that College Place taxpayers pay nine times the amount per household as compared to this new Wa-Hi bond’s cost to Walla Wallans ($2.70 vs. 30 cents per $1,000).
But the Wa-Hi science building will serve triple the number of students per day as will the new College Place High School. It is a great investment for a whole lot of kids.
Finally, I encourage everyone to get the facts before voting. The district’s website shows cost breakdowns, building plans and explanations as to how this will benefit kids. You can also attend a science tour to see for yourselves what this is all about.
The next tours are from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday and March 31. Wa-Hi science teachers will show you around and answer questions.