Walla Walla School District seeks $48M bond to update Wa-Hi

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 28, 2013 

WALLA WALLA -- It's been 50 years since the collection of buildings that make up Walla Walla High School were built.

Mark Higgins, spokesman for the Walla Walla School District, said those buildings have served the community well and will continue to do so, but the time has come to update them for the modern needs of education.

The Walla Walla School Board agreed this fall to seek a $48 million bond from voters. The bond is strictly to update facilities at Wa-Hi, primarily academic spaces, but also some for career and technical education, or CTE, the arts and athletics.

"We've been studying this for a long time," Higgins said.

If approved, the bond would modernize the school's science and math building, academic building, commons and library. Along with adding and expanding some classrooms, technology and other infrastructure will be improved. The music and drama building also would be expanded and modernized, more space would be added to the school's fitness center and Wa-Hi's CTE building would be upgraded.

The bond would cost taxpayers 68 cents per $100,000 in assessed property value, or $68 a year for a home assessed at $100,000. The bond would be paid off in 20 years and the district also expects to receive $21.6 million in state matching dollars.

"This will maintain the traditional format, layout and architecture (of the school) but modernize and economize," Higgins said.

Voters approved a bond in 2007 for work on an elementary school but rejected a bond a year before to build a new Wa-Hi along with a few other projects.

Higgins said discussions with community members indicated they wanted to retain the current buildings and also deal with only one school project at a time. Modernizing the school also is less expensive, costing $235 per square foot compared to $277 per square foot to build a brand new facility.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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