Poor air conditioning, no heat in classrooms and overcrowding in the commons are among a few of the issues faced by today’s students.
The opportunity has arisen for students to get involved in the planning process of improvements within their school.
The Walla Walla School District takes proactive measures to ensure the improvement of facilities within the school district, this time taking the initiative to meet with students.
With the “Educate, Listen and Plan” facilities improvement effort, priorities are recognized and plans made accordingly to move forth with improvements of school district facilities.
The “Educate, Listen and Plan” program focuses on improving district facilities. Kicking it off is Superintendent Mick Miller, who will educate staff, students and community members on previous district facilities studies. Then, Miller will listen to opinions and ideas, which will eventually lead to a planning process for improvement projects.
Miller strongly believes that people make schools great learning environments, not the facility that makes the school. “The better the environment is, the better kids can learn and staff can work together,” Miller said.
Miller intends to visit each school in January and February to meet with focus groups, students and conduct surveys. “I want students to show me what needs to be done,” Miller said.
Another attempt to inform the public of improvement issues includes an online virtual student program. With one click of a mouse anyone may experience a student’s day in the actual learning environment.
Facilities improvement projects are made possible by a bond comprised of local funds and state matched dollars. A bond resembles a mortgage because it spreads the cost over a longer amount of time. This allows everyone to pay a little amount and in return receive more money for funding projects.
In order to gain government funding for facilities improvement projects, decisions must first be made about solutions to issues based on the findings of Miller’s studies.
If Miller feels strongly enough that the district should pursue certain projects, he would then present the idea to the school board.
The school board makes the final decision of whether or not a ballot be voted on by the community.
Bonds from previous years allowed the completion of a new Edison Elementary School, as well as the Support Services Facility and Transportation Cooperative.
The 2006 bond measure included a new Walla Walla High School and an on-campus stadium, a new Lincoln Alternative High School, a new Edison Elementary, and a new Transportation and Support Services facility.
This measure did not get approved by Walla Walla voters. However, this provided valuable knowledge. The district learned voters prefer one project at a time, simple projects work better, and Edison Elementary remained the main priority.
The 2007 bond measure included only one project on the ballot: the new Edison Elementary School, which voters approved.
In the fall of 2007, the High School Facilities Task Force formed, which studied high school issues for close to a year.
Again in 2009 the Community Task Force reconvened and submitted a final report to the school board in June 2010.
The task force concluded that Walla Walla High School and Lincoln Alternative High School are the main priorities for the district. The highest level of focus is directed in science and math classrooms, as well as the commons and overcrowding problems.
In order for a bond measure to be approved 60 percent of voters must say “yes” on the ballot.
Miller remains optimistic of approving a progressive bond measure to improve facilities. “Reasonable people given the same reasonable information come to the same reasonable conclusion,” Miller said.