New Bond Measure Brings New Hope for Walla Walla High School

Daniel Kim

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Illustration by Eddy Vazquez.

In April, citizens of Walla Walla will be voting on a new bond to renovate aging Walla Walla High School. It was created in response to the rejection of a previous bond to update the school last spring.

The measure that failed last April would have dedicated $67 million to a thorough remodel of Wa-Hi, with special focus on science facilities and exterior hallways. The proposal currently being debated has been scaled back in hopes of gaining more support, and the amount has been decreased to $10.3 million.

“The first bond was a complete campus-wide remodel, including academic buildings, common library, kitchen area, the science building and the vocational building, whereas this one simply builds a new science building,” said Principal Pete Peterson. “So this bond is a much smaller scale and addresses a very specific need, which is our science areas, our lab sciences specifically, and the total cost is probably going to be about $10.3 million.”

Decreasing the bond from $67 million to $10.3 million is aimed to alleviate concerns the community had with the previous bond, which ultimately led to its rejection. According to multiple community surveys, Peterson said that these concerns included high cost projects that were “wants, not needs,” and a desire to have a remodel process in phases rather than all at once.

“We feel this particular bond reflects the three highest reactions from the community,” said Peterson.

The current bond proposal requires Wa-Hi to put the campus-wide renovation remodel into phases. If the current bond were to pass in April, the funds would go toward a new science building that would house 10 additional science classrooms.

“It’s considerably less as far as the scope of the project goes. It’s considered the first phase in what would be a complete campus-wide remodel that will probably take place over the course of ten years,” said Peterson.

Whitman students and faculty are taking interest in the Wa-Hi bond and are getting involved with the process. Senior Stefani Paladino is one of the students who is getting involved with the bond, trying to advocate for the bond in any way possible.

“My role up to this point has been learning about the bond, looking over the surveys they gave to the teachers and going to the board meetings. I spoke at the board meeting and advocated that they should go ahead and put this on the ballot in April,” said Paladino.

With the new bond attempting to address problems with the previous measure, the goal is to bring those who were against the bond to support it in the upcoming April election to create a better high school campus.

“I think the whole school needs to be renovated, and that’s not really a question. There is a lot of questioning about how to go about that, and because it has failed in the past, trying to fix everything at once, doing it in these phases is what I think is going to be right for Walla Walla because it’s starting to take the step and having that one foot in the door,” said Paladino.

The plan for the next couple of months leading up to the voting day is that supporters will try everything within their abilities to increase chances of the bond passing. Whitman faculty and students will be going out into the community to express the possibilities with the bond.

“From here to April, I’m going to continue to meet with [Walla Walla School Board Member] Ruth Ladderud to figure out what the next steps are. But, I imagine that the next step would be to go out into the community and urge people to vote for the bond, informing them why they should vote for the bond and why it is important,” said Paladino.

For the numerous Whitman students who attended Wa-Hi, passage of the bond would mean a much needed update on an institution to which they owe much.

“It is always nice to see your high school being developed to fulfill new standards, especially when it is for the students. I never had any complaints about the buildings themselves, but as time continues we have to think about what new developments are necessary, such as classroom space, campus security and equipment to better the education,” said junior and Wa-Hi graduate Jose Beleche.

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