Walla Walla Public Schools
Week in Review - January 12, 2007

In this Issue:

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, January 15 -- NO SCHOOL

Classes resume Tuesday, January 16.
School board meeting Tuesday
Tuesday, January 16
7:30 p.m.
Location: Board Room - District Office (364 S. Park Street)
Open to public

Rotary to host Edison bond presentation Thursday
Thursday the Walla Walla Rotary Club will feature an informational program on the February 6 Edison bond proposal. Superintendent Rich Carter, Edison Principal Nancy Withycombe and Citizens for Schools Chair Vanessa Prull will be the featured speakers.

Rotary members meet at the Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center at noon.

Grandmother's Roundtable seeks answers on Edison bond

Edison Elementary Bond Information

Election Date: Tuesday, February 6 (ballots mail out Friday, January 19)

Recently the Grandmother's Roundtable - a nonprofit, educational group with the goal of being informed and helping others become informed on local issues – contacted the district with questions concerning the current Edison bond issue coming up on the ballot on February 6, 2007.

Since many people in the community probably have similar questions, Walla Walla Public Schools in printing its responses to the Grandmother's Roundtable.

The district wants to thank the Grandmother's Roundtable for coming to us for answers as we strive to inform the community about this important issue. Contact the district's Communications Department for additional information: 526-6716 or e-mail: mhiggins@wwps.org.

Question: Why are the Edison costs for the February bond vote so much more than for the May vote?


1. We are finishing the entire second floor per this proposal. This includes approximately 20,000 extra square feet of space to be fully finished, furnished and equipped. The completion of the second floor will provide approximately 50 percent more classroom and program space to better address district space limitations.

Costs for finishing these second floor spaces were not included in the May bond proposal. Second floor includes: 12 classrooms, two restrooms, three specialist teaching areas, and two teacher preparation areas. Edison , for example, is considered 150 percent over capacity due to portables housing key instructional programs – including kindergarten, library and music.

2. We are scheduled to complete this project in 2009. The May 16 proposal would have completed the project in 2008. This additional year adds more inflationary costs onto the project. With school construction cost projections going up 15 to 20% per year, this adds significantly to the cost of the project.

3. Since this project is another year out, we added property purchase inflationary costs to our project to make sure we have adequate budget to purchase the property needed to complete the project as planned. According to Coldwell Banker First Realtors' Dennis Ledford, Walla Walla real estate property values increased 18 percent in 2006. We plan to purchase 6 to 7 houses east of the current site as the parcels become available.

4. We previously had a multi-project bond issue and all of the bond costs were spread out over all of the projects. This is a single issue bond and we have all of our bond costs in the current project budget.

Our cost for the first phase (first floor fully completed) of the Edison Project in May was projected at $13,500,000, to be completed in 2008. The current proposal, which includes finishing the entire two-story school, is projected at $19.5 million and is to be completed in 2009.

Please note our projected costs were jointly developed with the district's Business Office, our architect -- Architects West -- and the construction management and cost estimator firm Roen & Associates.

Question: Why did you decide to ask for money to finish the second floor now when it wasn't a priority in the May vote?

Answer: It was always a priority to build in extra capacity at our elementary grade levels – thus the plan to build a school to serve 450 students. Since the district faces numerous facility needs as were addressed in the May proposal, we tried to compromise with the May 16 proposal to have a greater impact on needs districtwide.

During our listening campaign we heard from community members that they want a single issue at a time. Since Edison is a stand-alone project on the February 6 ballot – and construction costs are rising at a 15 to 20 percent clip per year – the school board decided to propose finishing the entire school now and then further study addressing other district needs after successfully completing Edison .

Question: Who decides how and where the matching state funds are used?

Answer: This is left up to the local Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors. We are proud of our past practices demonstrating good stewardship with state matching funds from Garrison, Green Park and Sharpstein bonds.

For each of the previous projects mentioned, the school board reconvened the district's Community Facilities Task Force to review and prioritize significant district capital facilities needs. The Task Force then brought recommendations to the school board for how these funds could be used based on these priorities.

Question: Why couldn't the original May es tim ate for Edison be used, and then the additional state matching funds be used to work on the second floor? 

  1. The school construction process would start in July of 2008, and we would need to wait to start the Edison Project if we needed state matching dollars to finish the project. This pushes out the construction timeline and adds cost to the project.
  2. The district is confident the money would be available, but we cannot guarantee funding is available for all projects in the State of Washington .
  3. State matching dollars are paid during and/or after the construction process. This could take a longer amount of time for payment approval and is a more complicated process than front funding the entire project.
  4. We front funded Garrison, Green Park and Sharpstein in the past, and this has been successful. If we need extra money at the end of the project, it would be available to help complete the project. A significant amount of districts around the State have had budget shortfall issues because of rising construction costs.
  5. When we have received state matching money, we have used our Community Facilities Task Force to help determine what to do with state matching dollars in the past. For example, the Community Facilities Task Force identified a roofing project for Sharpstein ($1,000,000), an extra gym for Garrison ($1,500,000), heating and ventilation system for Prospect Point ($1,000,000), new roofs for Wa-Hi, and other expenses.

Question: What is the enrollment at Edison? Approximately 260 students currently attend Edison Elementary.

 Question: The other elementary schools?

Answer: Square footage comparisons included. The new Edison would be approximately 63,000 sq. ft.

•  Berney: 62,729 sq ft. (460 students)

•  Blue Ridge : 69,416 sq. ft. (292 K-5 and 180 Preschool)

•  Edison (current): 33,000 sq. ft. (260 students)

•  Green Park : 71,400 sq. ft. (468 students)

•  Prospect Point: 52,000 sq. ft. (552 students) * Note: Prospect Point is a 1970 design. It does not have indoor hallways as most schools do, thus the square footage is less. Prospect Point features outdoor hallways and does not have teacher preparation spaces.

•  Sharpstein: 69,000 sq. ft. (429 students)

Question: Is there some sort of projected population increase of young families into the Edison area that influenced your thinking as to finishing the second floor now? If so what are the projections?

Answer: There is new development east of the school. We are not sure exactly how that will impact Edison , but we anticipate it will bring some additional students.

Here's the big picture with this project. The new Edison provides the district much needed flexibility to address current capacity issues at our other elementary schools and room to grow with the community. City and county projections state we can expect steady growth – approximately 1.5 percent per year – for the next 15 years. We already know we are stretched thin at Green Park, Sharpstein and Prospect Point.

This additional space will give us options in the future for these space issues so we are not forced to over populate some of our schools. Of course, these issues are never easy and always include vast community involvement. We have also learned from other districts in the state how they “grandfather” students into a school so if boundary changes are made students get to remain in the school where they started unless the family decides otherwise.

We are not there yet with these decisions, but we need flexibility to provide the district and families more options. The new Edison would help make this possible.

Question: Why ask for so much more money than before for Edison when taxpayers know there is still the supply/maintenance center, High School and Paine School that will need funds in the future?

Answer: Walla Walla citizens during this fall's “Listening Campaign” told the district they want to keep taxes low. Again, the district listened by lowering the total cost of the entire bond proposal 64 percent – from $53.5 million (May 16 bond) to $19.5 million -- which in turn puts the estimated cost per thousand at 20 cents for this measure as opposed to 99 cents which was proposed in May. This is a significant cost reduction.

The community also said they want more information on high school options for the future. The community said they weren't ready to support replacing Walla Walla High School with a new structure.

Feedback suggested the district further study remodeling the current buildings at Wa-Hi, consider building a second high school, develop a long-range plan for the alternative programs and provide more information on College Place's plans, if there are any, for building its own high school in the future.

The district has listened to this community feedback and has committed to forming a broad-based task force to complete an in-depth study on Walla Walla 's high school experience and options for the future. This study will begin this spring and could take two or more years. Findings from this study will help provide the district direction in addressing its other facility needs.

Question: Is any of this bond money or the matching state money earmarked for rebuilding the supply/maintenance center?

Answer: As mentioned earlier, the school board in the past has reconvened the Community Facilities Task Force to help prioritize needs. District leaders expect this directive to come again. Although no decisions have been made on how to use these state matching funds, the Support Services facility remains a high priority for the district.

Question: Can you provide a break down of the costs of the project for each step of redevelopment?

Answer: The cost of the project is $19.5 million. We don't have a past practice of providing detailed breakdowns of these costs as it would compromise the district's position with contractors and property owners as we negotiate contracts for this project.

However, the $19.5 million does pay for the following: architect fees, building permits, value engineering, construction management, state sales tax of 8.3%, furniture, equipment, additional land purchase, technology, outdoor play spaces, bond costs, and other miscellaneous fees required by the State of Washington to receive state matching funds.

The Edison project would increase the local bond rate 20 cents per thousand of assessed valuation -- an average of $2.50 per month on a $150,000 house. The Sharpstein project – approved in 1999 for $11.4 million -- was 54 cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation.

Question: If the bond passes, will Edison be totally completed, with no additional money necessary for ANY aspect of the project?

Answer: Yes. Sharpstein Elementary, the district's most recent project, is a good example of the district living up to this expectation. This project was completed under budget. We have assembled a team of professional cost estimators – a state requirement – and are working closely with Architects West, the firm which also designed Sharpstein, to develop a budget to build a school to meet the needs of the community while staying within the established budget.

Superintendent Coffee Hour -- Berney Elementary
Friday, January 19
• Berney Elementary
8:15 to 9:00 a.m.
This is an excellent opportunity to meet Superintendent Rich Carter and discuss local, state and national educational issues.

Edison bond fact sheets available
Fact sheets for the February 6 Edison Elementary bond are available at all schools, the district office and online at: www.wwps.org.

Elementary Explorer Gifted Education Program nominations open

Nominations are now open for the 2007-2008 Explorer (Gifted Education) Program at the elementary school level. Nomination forms are available in school offices and on the district website (under both the District A-Z and Support Programs links on the left side of the home page).

The deadline for nominations is Friday, January 19, 2007. Further testing will take place from February through May, and students will be notified of results during the first week of June.

If you would like more information on the program, contact your school learning specialist or the elementary Explorer teachers at 526-1706.

Chamber Singers perform with college choir
This week in Kennewick the Wa-Hi Chamber Singers performed with the Willamette University Chamber Choir and the Kamiakin High school Choir. The Willamette group is on tour and invited the Chamber Singers to perform at their concert.