Wa-Hi Bond Takes Next Steps

Hannah Bartman

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Illustration by MaryAnne Bowen

Walla Walla High School’s school board is taking steps to modify the bond which failed last February that would serve a needed renovation for Wa-Hi’s facilities. The first bond, which called for $69.6 million from tax payers, was supposed to bring additions and modifications to Wa-Hi’s 50-year-old classrooms and sport facilities.

“At this point, it’s just community members meeting and discussing with the school board and stake holders,” said Professor of Physics and active community member Kurt Hoffman. “The informal discussion going on now is to discern how [the school board and superintendent] can put together a package that the voters will support.”

In order to alleviate voter concern over the large price tag for the bond, Hoffman suggested that the superintendent and school board are proposing splitting the bond into three separate bonds. First, the superintendent needs to discuss with the community what infrastructures need to be renovated first in order to create separate bonds, and then these renovations must be proposed to and passed by the school board. The hope is that splitting up the bond will make the renovations appear less costly in the short-term, but Hoffman believes that this would actually not be the case.

“If [splitting up the bond is] what people want, then that’s fine. But it would not save them any money, but rather cost them more in the long run,” he said.

The bonds will call for restorations to the various academic buildings, the library, soccer fields and administrative offices. Other issues such as class size and classes offered would also be affected by these physical changes to WaHi’s facilities.

“The fact that has to drive this is that Wa-Hi needs to be updated and made modern. Period,” said Walla Walla Community College Vice President Jim Peterson in a recent Union Bulletin article. “Our students deserve it, our parents deserve it, our staff deserves it.”

Another issue that the school board and superintendent need to take into account is the addition of another high school in College Place that is due to open in the fall of 2014. This might deplete the amount of students at Wa-Hi, making classes smaller, but at the same time, teachers might transfer schools, which would put additional pressure on Wa-Hi academics.

“If you look around the school district, we have 11 or 12 facilities in the city, so there’s always going to be something constructed or remodeled. There’s always a sense that the school is building something and that’s because it probably is,” said Hoffman.

The specifics of the new bond proposal will be discussed in the upcoming months with community members and proponents of the bond to ensure that WaHi receives the renovations it needs, while also meeting standards more adaptable to taxpayers.

“I believe that we have a community who takes pride in our children and who understands that prudent investment in the local high school facility is an urgent necessity,” said Administrator for the Dean of Faculty and school board member Ruth Ladderud in an email. “Addressing the deficiencies of the facilities at Walla Walla High School isn’t just an important issue for Walla Walla High School. It is an important issue for the Walla Walla community.”

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