Kern High School District Trustees voted Monday to change the boundaries of five northwest Bakersfield high schools, sending Centennial High School students to North High School and Frontier High School students to Centennial, among other changes.
But it was parents and residents of Lamont, who want their own high school, who raised the biggest concerns at the meeting.
Population growth in northwest Bakersfield near Frontier High School is, according to district reports, forcing the changes to school boundaries.
Frontier had roughly 2,400 students last school year. Centennial High School, its nearest neighbor to the east, had 2,000.
Despite a host of contentious forum meetings about the northwest Bakersfield boundary changes, only one parent spoke on the issue Monday.
Jeff Lenk, who lives in the new Gossamer Grove neighborhood, would have liked to see his two elementary school children go to Centennial High, the same school he attended.
His children were shifted from the Shafter High School district into the North High School area instead.
Since he’d asked to be moved out of Shafter — which he felt was too far away — Lenk said he accepted Monday’s decision.
And he said he understood the need for the district to rebalance school populations.
As parents, he said, “we recognize that what’s more important than the school is our involvement.”
The boundaries approved Monday night handle the overpopulation — and expected growth at Frontier — by moving some future Frontier students to three other district high schools — Centennial, Liberty and Shafter high schools.
Students living generally north of Seventh Standard Road in the current Frontier area will go to Shafter.
Students living on the eastern edge of Frontier’s boundaries will move into the Centennial district.
Students living generally on the southern border of the current Frontier boundaries will move to Liberty.
But those moves create additional problems at two other district schools — Centennial and Shafter.
So those two schools will send some students to North High School in Oildale.
Students living north of Seventh Standard Road in the Calloway Drive area and students living generally east of Fruitvale — with some exceptions — will move into the North district.
KHSD Director of Research and Planning Roger Sanchez said the board had three options: select a plan, alter a plan or do nothing.
Waiting several years, he said, is really not a viable option.
“As it is right now this process is going to be a five-year implementation,” Sanchez said.
Waiting will create critical overpopulation, he said.
“To do nothing is worse. We have to manage this now,” agreed Trustee Jeff Flores.
The first students impacted by the changes will be those who start high school in fall 2018, more than a year from now.
“We are not talking about any student who is currently enrolled,” Trustee Brian Batey said.
And the plan is to allow the siblings of current students to attend the same high school, he said.
Trustees struggled with the way the changes split neighborhoods, elementary school districts and even two sides of the same street of homes.
Each of the options had some aspect that, they said, they’d rather not enact.
But they settled on Plan A as the best option.
One small tweak to the plan may be explored at a later date.
Trustee Joey O’Connell called for the board to look at one neighborhood near Meacham Road and Allen Road where the changes would split students on one side of the cul-de-sac into one high school and send those on the other side to a completely different school.
Trustees said they were open to seeing if that neighborhood of 12 to 14 homes, at least, could be kept together.
But a host of speakers who talked to the Board of Trustees Monday highlighted the fact that the struggles of balancing school populations are far from over for the Kern High School District.
They brought 1,600 signatures from people in Lamont who want a new high school built there.
Currently, Sanchez said, there are 2,700 students at Arvin High School, where children from Lamont attend school.
But splitting out the 1,100 Arvin High School students who live in Lamont would create two very small high schools.
Trustees said they heard the concerns of the Lamont residents and made suggestions that they investigate the possibility of opening a charter high school or encouraging the Lamont elementary school district to open a high school and become a unified school district.
Jose Gonzalez, a Lamont resident who is on a KHSD committee looking into the situation, said residents felt like they were being brushed aside.
“It doesn’t seem that they want to represent us or represent our community,” he said.