Last week, we got our hands on a “wish list” of projects the Kern Community College District wants to fund if the voters here, along with those in Ridgecrest and Porterville and other parts of the huge district, approve a $502 million bond.
The wish list is far more expensive than what the district’s bonding capacity can bear at this time, but it’s telling. The district would like to build new classrooms, a new center in Arvin and modernize buildings.
Bakersfield College is half time capsule and half modern marvel -- just look at the parking lots covered in solar panels. The time capsule is where some of the big-ticket pieces come in -- think of the behemoth Gil Bishop Sports Complex.
The sheer size of the bond is going to be hard for some to stomach, and we’re already hearing grumbling about serious opposition to the bond. But passing the bond would be continued validation for a community dreaming of a future of sustained prosperity.
Gil Bishop Sport Complex, as we reported on Saturday, is a good example of this optimism that seemed to drive the California community college movement after World War II. In reality, Gil Bishop feels like an old battleship and maintaining it is always going to be a challenge.
In fact, it’s a $40 million challenge -- more than some school districts have spent on entire high schools in recent years. It’s unclear exactly how BC is going to prioritize the modernization of Gil Bishop, but I strongly suspect it will be about making it more efficient.
It must have been fascinating to witness the planning of Bakersfield College’s audacious 1950s building program. After all, they built a state-of-the-art stadium before completing the first classroom.
But that was California in the 1950s. Just visit Cerritos College, Long Beach City College and others and you’ll see an interesting mix of buildings -- many of them from that time. Maintaining our schools and institutions is never going to be a cheap endeavor.
An argument could be made that the investment in California community colleges has given a lot to this state in return, and I’ve seen few places where a community loves its college as much as this one loves BC.
As this bond heads to the November ballot, it would be a good idea for BC and Kern Community College District folks to remember that -- give a little back and be open. In turn, it’s likely the voters will return the favor.