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KHSD hosts its first forum on boundary changes at West High

A week after the district released three proposals, the Kern High School District hosted its first forum on boundary changes Tuesday night.

The impetus for changes is the opening of Del Oro High School in fall 2022 just southeast of Bakersfield. But the district said the proposals also aim to tackle overcrowding at other schools, creating a domino effect that means a larger swath of the district is affected by boundary changes — including high schools in the southwest.

Roger Sanchez, KHSD’s director of research and planning, gave a presentation on the three proposals that were put together by the boundary committee.

On Tuesday night at West High School, parents whose students could be affected by these changes and other community members showed up to voice their opinions. Public comment was relatively brief, lasting just under 15 minutes.

Some of the most concerned parents in the southwest are those who live in what is dubbed The Rudder of Bakersfield High School. Driller territory crosses right through the heart of Bakersfield before dipping sharply south into The Rudder, which is Quailwood, Amberton, Stockdale Estates, Olde Stockdale and Laurelglen.

A group showed up in Driller Blue, expressing their support for Plan 3, which keeps The Rudder completely intact. Plan 2 splits zones the northern part of Laurelglen for Stockdale High, and the southern part for Independence High. In Plan 1, The Rudder is entirely zoned for West High.

Maggie Gless, next year’s senior class president at Bakersfield High School, spoke in support of allowing her younger siblings and neighbors to become Drillers. She wants this next generation to have the same opportunities.

“I’m thriving at Bakersfield High academically, socially and in my athletics,” she said. “I’ve been able to experience the cultural diversity of the school and have more real-world experience.”

Erin Pandol, an alumni of BHS, said she and her husband purchased their home in Stockdale Estates with the aim of having their children attend BHS. She notes that many other neighbors and friends of hers from high school made similar decisions, because their time as a Driller had left such an impression on them.

Pandol called BHS the “only viable public school” option for her children. She said it’s hard to imagine her children anywhere else.

“I cannot imagine them not calling the Elm Grove home,” she said. “I cannot imagine them not feeling the pride and history of Griffith Stadium and not walking the halls of Warren Hall and feeling the history of all the great minds and all the different cultural experiences that came before them.”

Two community members, both KHSD staff members, offered support for proposals that moved The Rudder to West High.

Jose Santos used to live in Stockdale Estates, and two of his children attended Bakersfield High School. They were proud Drillers, but he said it was frustrating having to drive out of the way when they were involved in activities at a school. His youngest son attends West High, and Santos said that his son is “thriving.”

He said as a teacher, he wants the community to know that every site works hard to offer opportunities to all students.

“The most important part of all of this is Kern High School District is not one high school, it’s not just Bakersfield High, it’s not just Ridgeview, it’s not just Liberty, Independence,” he said. “All of us have an important role in making sure that all of our students have an opportunity to excel.”

Paul Stine, who also identified himself as a Kern High staff member, said he was speaking as a Kern County taxpayer. He asked for the district to conduct a study on the amount of money spent on busing students from The Rudder to Bakersfield High School.

He spoke in support of Plan 1, but suggested an option to give parents in The Rudder preferential treatment to transfer to Bakersfield High School through open enrollment during a grace period of five to 10 years — and to transport themselves.

Based on feedback the public gives at these forums, the committee will present a final plan at the Aug. 2 board meeting. The ultimate goal is to bring a final proposal for the board’s approval at their Sept. 7 meeting.