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Jose Gonzalez, center, and other Lamont residents voiced their frustrations over not having a high school in their town during an April community meeting about Kern High School District's proposed high school in southeast Bakersfield.

The Kern High School District isn't cooperating, so the Lamont High School booster club will just go it alone.

The proponents of a new public high school to serve the unincorporated Kern County farm town just southeast of Bakersfield, and serve them alone, have taken a new tack: They want to create a new unified, K-12 school district.

And that's news to at least one of the school superintendents whose district would be swallowed whole by the new entity.

Lamont residents have been trying to convince the KHSD to build a high school in Lamont since 2006, and the current group of proponents, led by Lamont Chamber of Commerce President Jose Gonzalez, for more than two years.

But the school district — in a state of near-continuous expansion due to the area's relentless pace of growth — has been compelled to keep looking elsewhere for new school sites. The numbers don't justify a Lamont High School right now, the district's trustees maintain, even if Lamont's community pride does.

So Gonzalez and a group of Lamont business owners are looking into the possibility of merging the two existing K-8 school districts in their community, the Lamont Elementary School District and the Vineland School District, into what would eventually be a single K-12 district.

"The parents in the community want to move it forward," Gonzalez said Tuesday. "Typically, when you have unification, the administration (of the existing districts) are the ones with the challenge."

And, indeed, Cindy Castro, who took over just three months ago as superintendent at Vineland, doesn't see the need. Arvin High School, about 10 miles to the southeast, provides a fine education to the 900-plus Lamont-area students who attend, she said.

"I know so many successful people who have come out of Arvin High School," said Castro, who admitted being "blind-sided" by the unification proposal. "The program is just excellent there. Lawyers, farmers, business owners — many success stories. They have a great staff there, a  dedicated staff, and those Arvin alumni — they are strong."

She is also concerned about what a unified Lamont school district would do to the identity and history of the Vineland district, which educated the migrant children of the Dust Bowl-era Sunset Labor Camp.

Arvin High Assistant Principal Stephen Granucci concurs with Castro's assessment of Arvin High's successes. The flip side, he said, is that students at both Arvin High and the new Lamont high school would suffer.

The diminished ADA state funding "would decrease (academic) opportunities for both groups of students," he said.

Lamont high school advocates could initiate the unification process, however, with the verified signatures of just 5 percent the voters in each of the two K-8 school districts. The school districts themselves could also initiate the process.

The Lamont Chamber of Commerce has hired the Los Angeles consulting firm Justice & Associates to study the possibility of a unified school district. The firm is looking at enrollment adequacy, community identity, division of property among the existing districts, potential risks of discrimination and segregation, the cost to the state, existing programs that might be affected, construction costs, possible effect on property values, and whether the unification would have a negative effect on the fiscal management of either existing district or the new one.

The KHSD has purchased land for a new high school at the corner of East Panama Lane and Cottonwood Road, not far from Golden Valley High School, citing the area's anticipated growth. The still-unnamed school, set to open in August 2022, is expected to serve as many as 2,500 students.

Lamont, feeling snubbed by that decision, would be following the course that McFarland took in 1979-80 when it formed the McFarland Unified School District. But the district has had financial issues associated with the community's low property values and other factors.

Gonzalez prefers to point to the Tulare County community of Farmersville, which in 1998-99 unified its school districts into a single entity that now has 2,559 students, of which 718 attend Farmersville High School.

A Lamont Unified School District would have about 4,800 students, he said, of which 1,100 would attend a Lamont high school. Most of those students now attend Arvin, although some who would theoretically attend a Lamont high school are now at Mira Monte and Golden Valley. The new high school would also dip into the Lamont pool.

The Lamont student base is roughly the same as Tehachapi schools, Gonzalez said. The Tehachapi Unified School District has 4,307 students, of which 1,249 attend Tehachapi High School.

"So it is it doable," he said. "If we took a look at Lamont compared to Farmersville, we'd see that the greater Lamont area is actually much bigger, and Farmersville was able to formulate their own school district. And then look at Tehachapi."

Which example is Lamont more likely to follow? McFarland or Farmersville? That's one way to look at the debate, which is apparently not going away anytime soon.

Contact The Californian’s Robert Price at 661-395-7399, rprice@bakersfield.com or on Twitter: @stubblebuzz. His column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; the views expressed are his own.

(16) comments

Bako Guy

You mention in the article, proponents refer to other cities where the elementary school district and the high school district came together such as in McFarland, Farmersville and Tehachapi. What's different in each of these cases is that there was an existing high school in each of these communities. In Lamont's case, they want to take the Lamont kids away from the Kern High School District but don't have a school to place them in? Robert Price also failed to mention that unification attempts have been tried in the last couple of years at both Shafter and Wasco and both attempts went down to failure. Why, because it's very difficult to work through the process to merge and change finances, staffing, union negotiations just to scratch the surface. If the residents of Lamont want to unify, where will the high school students be housed and who will be paying to build that new high school? Where will those Lamont high school students attend school until the new school is being built? Will those Lamont students have the same access to programs that the Kern High School District offers such as ROC, sports, etc?

Leadership

Please don't provide false information. Not all the Areas mentioned in the article had a high school. Farmersville did'nt have a high school. "On Oct. 16, 1991 Farmersville Public School Board officially endorsed the idea of a unified school District, opening the door for Farmersville to build its own high school" ( Here's the link: http://www.thesungazette.com/articale/education/2010/09/29farmersville-school-was-one-of-the-first-in-the-county/ ). It's interesting that your making the case for a school district that told the residents of Lamont Weedpatch that if they wanted a High School to build it themselves. And that's exactly what there looking at doing. You fail to mention that the KHSD has not been friendly to Lamont Weedpatch or Arvin areas and they have no reason to stay. The Lamont Weedpatch area has intelligent enough educators to work through the unification process. Just the suggestion that we could not work through the unification process is offensive. Don't worry about where the students would be housed, we have smart educators that can figure that out, the KHSD is not the only solution to our kids education. As far as the programs that the KHSD offers, I don't think that's a deal breaker. I don't see Wasco, Delano, McFarland, Taft, and Tehachapi students leaving there High schools in large numbers for the KHSD programs. If the KHSD really cared about about this community they would have bought land a long time ago for a potential high school in the Lamont Weedpatch area, just like they have done in Bakersfield.

BakoMark

Comparing remote communities to Lamont is ridiculous.



Land acquisition happened in most cases, long before this school was being pitched



It’s sad that the students in Arvin will suffer bc of the pride and ego of a community that can’t really afford it.



The politicization of this issue will only hurt the Hispanic population in Arvin and Lamont for generations to come.

Nevermind

Hmmmm, ridiculous. Maricopa has less citizens than the average High School, it's closer to Taft than Lamont is to Arvin. Shafter and Wasco? Almost the exact same distance apart. And of course Rosedale, that remote outlier community, which has less people than Lamont, has THREE and soon to be FOUR High Schools. You can make an argument against it, but NOT based remoteness or sheer demographics. THAT is ridiculous. If they don't offer anymore than student population, they are not doing their job of convincing. Arvin is WAY over it's capacity. Being bussed to Arvin from Lamont is the same as being bussed from the Padre hotel to Mira Monte high.

BakoMark

Apples and oranges. Great job trying to incite the 1960’s segregation anger by dropping a term like”bussing.”



If you can’t see that the programs kern high can offer far outweigh anything that a newly formed district then you are part of the problem.



The ROP program is an excellent KERN High program that a newly formed district won’t have the resources to offer a sophisticated program like that with the many specialties that it currently does.

Nevermind

Well then THAT is the argument Mark. Not remoteness or population. Lamont citizens wouldn't have to bring up creating a district if they weren't being treated like red headed step children by KHSD. If it's a problem regarding Arvin High losing money because they are brought back down to the correct capacity, something is wrong with the government policy, not the people of Lamont.

Nevermind

BTW, it's not inciting segregation issues. Busses are expensive. I'm sure nobody would be upset if their Rosedale kid was bussed to Shafter rather than create Frontier.....right?

REMUDA

Sir Nevermind . . . concur, as logic seems fruitless here while the KHSD struggles to name a high school that, if my Navy AirNav Plotting Board is on track, only . . . Four (4) Miles (6.4 Km) L*O*S . . . due west of Lamont (named after a person or place "from the mountain"). My late offering of a name for this "newest" BAKO SE HS (TBD) . . . "Vista LaMont High" . . . . seemed geographically, strategically and demographically euphonious. But then, KHSD has many other more serious problems on its 'plate'.

Bako Guy

As much as Lamont wants the KHSD board to put a school in Lamont, how can that be justified when, the population of Bakersfield has risen 55.4% and Lamont has only risen 3.2%. The KHSD board needs to place schools where houses are being built and that’s not in Lamont, unfortunately. To set aside construction funds for a new high school in Lamont would take away monies for a school(s) in other faster growing areas. And, you seem to imply that if there was a high school in Lamont busses would be needed. That’s not the case. The elementary school districts in the area already bus students. That won’t change.

Leadership

Please don't provide false information. The KHSD knew Lamont wanted a High School in there community since 2006. They could have bought land to plan for the future of this community, but they didn't. They decided to ignore the community. And in the last year they have made a couple purchases of land for future school site ignoring Lamont. That's not cool at all. It's funny you bring up Arvin, so what your saying is that Arvin is dependent on Lamont Weedpatch students. I believe that Arvin student and parents will benefit from this. No more overcrowding, more room for the Arvin Community to grow into the school. No more overcrowded lunch areas. Better class sizes, more area to play sports, and less fights. A more manageable high school for the administration.

Arvin and Lamont parents both agree that Lamont Weedpatch should have there own high school and they see the benefit of it. It's sad to see that people that don't see the struggles that these kids go through only want future generations to continue to suffer instead of supporting them. Can you walk 10 miles when the buses miss you or break down? if so can you make it on time? would you like to be in overcrowded buses? Sorry BakoMark, but I disagree with you its actually good for parents to question the quality of education and the types of facilities that are being provided to us. People have become to use to the idea that our community Latino/ Hispanic don't question the services that are provided to them by the education system. That needs to change.

Nevermind

Population of Taft... 9300...High School since the Titanic sank



Population of Tehachapi, 14400, High School



Population of McFarland 12700, High School since Prohibition era



Frazier Park population 2700, High School since a jury found O.J. innocent



Population of California City 14120, High School



Population of Maricopa 1150, High School, that's a total population less than the amount of Lamont kids that go to Arvin alone



Population of Rosedale, 14500...THEY have THREE High Schools and one on the way



Population of Lamont.....15200. More than any of these other towns



High School District Trustees..."Lamont doesn't have enough students to warrant a High School."

There are only two things you can surmise from that statement....either understanding elementary math is not a requirement to be a Trustee, or its racism plain and simple. I'm going with the former because everyone knows racism was exterminated in Kern County 100 years ago, and that calculators haven't arrived here yet.






Ciscojav

"The Lamont Chamber of Commerce has hired the Los Angeles consulting firm Justice & Associates to study the possibility of a unified school district. The firm is looking at enrollment adequacy, community identity, division of property among the existing districts, potential risks of discrimination and segregation, the cost to the state, existing programs that might be affected, construction costs, possible effect on property values, and whether the unification would have a negative effect on the fiscal management of either existing district or the new one."



Castro & Grannuci should be supporting this study because it's been long due. I hope they do not attempt allow any possible "self-intersts" to undermine this study or use their influence in their community in an attempt to persuade parents that this study somehow would not be in the "best interest" of their children.

Leadership

It's really hard to believe that the Vineland Superintendent didn't know that unification was also on the table when the rest of the administration participated in supporting the movement for a High School. They bused parents and kids to the KHSD Board meetings. They even commented at the KHSD Board meetings when the Board told parents, "if you want a high school then build it yourselves by unification".

Leadership

It's interesting to hear a superintendent put her interest first versus the kids that she serves. I found it interesting that she's ok with the struggles that Lamont Weedpatch kids have had to deal with.

RuthTisdale

So the idea is to swallow up the Lamont Schools and the Vineland School Districts to increase the student base and rob the coffers of Lamont School District and Vineland School District to pay for a high school.



Bad move. If they want a high school then go for it but not at the expense of the existing schools.

BakoMark

It’s almost like tribalism at its best. Lamont Hispanics will be better served by a Lamont school. We don’t care about the Arvin Latinos. It’s sad all around.

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