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Comprehensive study outlines how far behind most district outdoor athletic and activity facilities are - 03/23/23

WALLA WALLA – Walla Walla High School Athletic Director Chris Ferenz, several coaches and parent representatives unveiled a comprehensive report three years in the making to school board members Tuesday night detailing significant inadequacies of most of the district’s outdoor athletic and activity facilities. Since 2019, WWPS coaches and staff have been meeting regularly to review current school amenities, research league and regional facilities, and prioritize improvements necessary for Walla Walla students. A comprehensive analysis of facility comparisons and research has been performed of all district schools in the Mid-Columbia Conference. The study finds most of Walla Walla Public Schools’ exterior athletic components are in need of substantial renovations or improvements in order to maintain safe and adequate facilities.

The report noted Walla Walla High School is the only school in the Mid-Columbia Conference without a multi-sport, turfed stadium. Despite multiple, costly maintenance resurfacing projects, Garrison Middle School and Walla Walla High School tennis courts are crumbling away. Grass soccer fields can’t hold up to the hundreds of athletes now participating and softball and baseball facilities do not have lights causing Walla Walla students to miss a combined 100 days of school during the spring alone.

“Over the last two decades, through community donations and district maintenance funds, we have tried our best to make improvements to our sixty-year-old courts and ballfields,” said Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith. “Despite the generosity from many and our school board, we have fallen significantly behind every other school in our league, and are continuing to fall even further behind.”

The current state of district outdoor athletic and activities facilities has been years in the making. The last time any bond or levy dollars were used for outside athletic improvements on any campus was when Walla Walla High School was originally constructed over 60 years ago. Rather than asking for voter-approved bonds or levies to improve outdoor athletic facilities, WWPS has leveraged community donations, Booster Club support and basic education maintenance dollars to try and keep up with extra-curricular facility improvements. Superintendent Smith says that improvement like Murr Park, constructed over 20 years ago, and the high school track, now eight years old, were examples of incredible community support. However, remaining outdoor fields, courts and amenities are in need of significant capital improvements to match todays programming needs.

“Ever other school in the MCC boasts state-of-art outdoor athletic and activities facilities for their student athletes,” said Superintendent Smith. “As promised, our highly successful 2018 bond program focused on taking care of classrooms, science labs, performing arts, fine arts, and other indoor critical facility needs across the district. This is what our voters told us to focus on and that is exactly what we did. However, that does not mean the need to address outdoor amenities went away.”

Comprehensive Study Findings of Current WWPS Outdoor Facilities:
• Walla Walla High School is the only school in the league without a multi-sport, turfed stadium where football, soccer, track, marching band, PE and other community use can practice and perform. The district pays $100,000 per year to access Borleske for 4-5 evening football games. Visiting teams dress down on the bus or in batting cages (the locker rooms were condemned over 40 years ago), and baseball improvements to the stadium over the years have made it even more problematic for football players and spectators.
• Walla Walla High School’s 60+ year old tennis courts are on the verge of being unplayable as the substructure has completely failed. Despite the board investing nearly $100K in a new topcoat surface on the high school courts three years ago, large cracks as wide as a tennis ball in some areas have already returned across all five courts. Garrison Middle School tennis courts, also a half-century old, are in a similar state.
• Walla Walla High School’s soccer program is the only one in the Mid-Columbia Conference that doesn't have access to a lighted, turf field. Most MCC schools maintain two, lighted soccer complexes for their programs. Without turf and access to a lighted complex, parents are forced to choose which of their children to watch as junior varsity and varsity are forced to play at the same times, and fields quickly deteriorate due to overuse. 
• Walla Walla High School is the only school that does not have lighted baseball and softball fields, which would allow the school to start its games in the after school afternoon and end in the early evening. As a result, Walla Walla students miss hundreds more class hours than their league counterparts.  
• Pioneer Middle School is the only middle school in the entire league still running on a cinder track. All 15 middle schools in Tri Cities boast all weather tracks.
• Without access to artificial turf fields, WIAA rules will require home playoff games in sports such as soccer and football be played in the tri-cities rather than on our home site. 
• Walla Walla High School’s JROTC program desperately needs a Raider Obstacle Course so students can compete with other schools in this important event.
• Porta-pottys often double as changing rooms as outdoor facilities and lockers do not exist on any site.

A link to the full presentation can be found here: https://meetings.boardbook.org/Documents/FileViewerOrPublic/997?file=e36dcbaa-71d5-4534-9f55-8b69b84ca521&isFromMeeting=True

Next Steps:
• Develop an Outdoor Athletic and Activity Facility Community Advisory Committee consisting of parents, community members and stakeholders
• Review, research and prioritize needs
• Identity costs to make improvements
• Investigate and propose funding options
• Provide committee progress update to the district in April with a final recommendation in May

“We have a lot of work ahead of us and are in the process of developing an independent Outdoor Athletic and Activity Community Advisory Committee,” said Superintendent Smith.  “Our focus will be to develop pragmatic improvement solutions that attempt to deliver equitable and comparable outdoor athletic and activity facilities with similar-sized schools to maximize student access, safety, engagement and pride.”


New residency program helps aspiring special education teachers get certified - 03/21/23

WALLA WALLA - Walla Walla Public Schools is partnering with the Walla Walla Valley Education Association and Washington Education Association on an innovative residency grant program to provide aspiring special education teachers a local pathway to realizing their dreams of teaching.

“This innovative program provides successful candidates with a full-year of residency in various Walla Walla Public Schools special education classrooms,” said Human Resources Director Mindy Meyer. “This partnership creates the opportunity for someone with a bachelor’s degree to earn a salary and full benefits while gaining instructional skills, pedagogy and a teaching endorsement.”


Residents will begin their learning this summer with in-person and hybrid classes. In August when teachers return to their classrooms, residents will begin working with their mentor teachers.

“One of the unique aspects of this program is that residents will get four quarters of experience in both elementary and secondary schools,” said Meyer. “Many special education teaching experiences, like most teaching experiences, often give student teachers exposure to only one or two types of classrooms or grade levels.”

This new residency provides candidates with four unique learning experiences: resource room, intensive support, behavior, and general education. Not only does this give residents a wide experience, it also prepares them for any potential special education positions in the future in Walla Walla Public Schools, according to Meyer. Residents will be part of a WEA cohort and will be able to learn from other residents and teachers in the Mukilteo and Federal Way school districts. 

The residency provides opportunities for district staff to be instructors and potentially serve in other roles. The grant also provides additional supports so a resident who might not be able to receive a teaching certificate through other routes due to potential barriers, like finances and program access, has the opportunity to become a certified teacher. Residents also get a full-year of residential experience. The WEA Residency Grant also provides a majority of the tuition and other supports.

“This provides residents with customized training and WWPS with new special education teachers who have more preparation, both in the classroom and in the Walla Walla way.”

The WEA program’s first cohort began accepting applications on March 20. Admitted residents begin summer coursework in June 2023 and will enter the classroom in September 2023. For more information, visit www.WashingtonEA.org or contact the Walla Walla Public Schools Human Resources Department at (509) 527-3000.




Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Regular Business Meeting: March 21, 2023 - 03/17/23

Supporting documents are available via the following link:  https://meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Organization/997
Board of Directors Meeting Schedule & Information:  https://www.wwps.org/district/information/school-board/board-meeting-schedule

Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Regular Study Meeting: March 7, 2023 - 03/03/23

Supporting documents are available via the following link:  https://meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Organization/997
Board of Directors Meeting Schedule & Information:  https://www.wwps.org/district/information/school-board/board-meeting-schedule

Walla Walla Public Schools teams with Chevrolet of Walla Walla to offer elementary soccer - 03/03/23

WALLA WALLA - This spring elementary students across the school district will have an opportunity to compete against each other in soccer thanks to a generous donation from Chevrolet of Walla Walla, the school district’s levy funds and grant support from the district’s 21st Century Afterschool Program.

This free new co-ed soccer program, for 4th and 5th grade students, begins April 10 and continues through May 18. Program management will fall under the umbrella of the district’s 21st Century Afterschool program, and equipment and program associated costs will be funded by the donation. The goal of the program is to provide a positive afterschool activity where students can enhance their soccer skills, learn to play as a team and develop good sportsmanship.

“We wanted to have a direct impact on our children and give back to the community,” said Jaime Tiscareno of Chevrolet of Walla Walla. “We didn’t have a soccer program in our elementary schools when I was a kid and I want to make sure today’s students have this opportunity. We look forward to seeing the students compete and have fun representing their schools.”

Practices will be held after school from 2:45 to 4:30 p.m. with games being held on Mondays and Thursdays after school. There are no practices or games on Wednesdays. Schools will play each other twice during the season. Transportation will be provided from the school to the game sites for all players. Parents are encouraged to pick up their children after all practices and following the games at the hosting schools. However, school transportation home is available if needed.

Registration Open March 6 through March 22: To register for this exciting new program, please complete the registration packet forms and return them to your child’s classroom teacher. Packets are available on the school's website and hard copies are available at the school’s main office.

Please contact your child's school if you have any additional questions. 


Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors Special Meeting/Executive Session: March 2, 2023 - 03/01/23

Supporting documents are available via the following link:  https://meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Organization/997
Board of Directors Meeting Schedule & Information:  https://www.wwps.org/district/information/school-board/board-meeting-schedule

Pandemic Learning Gap Closes in Walla Walla with Double-Digit Gains in Math and Reading (Photo) - 02/28/23

WALLA WALLA - Walla Walla Public Schools K-8 students have erased pandemic-period learning losses based on mid-year academic assessments. The results are due both to smaller declines during the period of hybrid schooling and to additional investments in supports for staff and students directed by the school board, according to Superintendent Dr. Wade Smith.

On the heels of the pandemic, the Walla Walla Public Schools Board of Directors established aggressive student reading and mathematics goals for their superintendent and schools last summer. From fall to winter this school year, the board targeted a 10% increase in the number of students performing at or above grade level in reading and math. Additionally, they established the same expectation for struggling students, requesting 10% fewer students score below grade level from fall to winter.

“These are lofty goals, expecting students to demonstrate remarkable growth in just a half years’ time,” notes Superintendent Smith. “However, our board realized the importance and urgency that students catch up, and we were laser-focused this fall and winter in doing so.”

Results from the winter i-Ready diagnostic revealed 13% more students are now performing on or above grade level in reading and math, in just a half years’ time, reaching levels not seen since the 2019-2020 school year.

“These results are a credit to teachers, administrators and support staff who have embraced the urgency of recovery for many students who came back to school facing intense challenges academically and socially,” said School Board President Derek Sarley. “The targeted investment of federal relief funds in new after-school programs, and additional counseling and family engagement staff have boosted their efforts as well.”

Nationwide, student reading and math scores decreased considerably as a result of interrupted learning during the pandemic, erasing decades of growth on national assessments like NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress). Locally, while Walla Walla did not see as large of academic dip, performance on local and state assessments were negatively impacted during the pandemic.

“We are excited for the growth our students have made and look forward to continued efforts through the remainder of the school year,” states Superintendent Smith. “We anticipate just as much if not more improvement from winter to spring and look forward to celebrating and communicating end of the year student performance with families and our community.”

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Attached Media Files: WWPS_iReady_Data_Image.PNG