The Kern High School District is moving forward with its plans to bring a new school to southeast Bakersfield.
The district has purchased a 77-acre property at the northeast corner of Panama Lane and Cottonwood Road for a new school and has selected HMC Architects to begin the design process. The school, which is targeted for an August 2022 opening, is estimated to cost $125 million and be up to 250,000 square feet.
By 2022, it will be the first major school in the district in 10 years. The last KHSD schools to open were Mira Monte and Independence high schools in 2008.
“We have seen some significant growth in the southeast area in the past few years,” said Scott Cole, assistant superintendent of business for the district. “We think the school is very necessary to meet the demand.”
Cole said around 65 percent of the cost for the school will be covered using money from the $280 million Measure K, which was approved by voters in 2016. The rest is expected to come from state funds.
The district is moving forward with the project despite opposition from some Lamont residents, who believe their community deserves a high school first. The town does not have its own high school. Instead, more than 1,400 from the Lamont/Weedpatch area go to other schools, primarily Arvin High School.
“The community of Lamont has been waiting for years. The district has been ignoring the community here,” said Jose Gonzalez, executive director of the Lamont Greater Chamber of Commerce.
Gonzalez said that with three schools located near the new high school’s proposed location, he doesn’t believe another school is needed in that area.
While Cole said he understands why Lamont residents have been asking for a new school, he said there’s a more significant need in southeast Bakersfield.
“By 2022, we expect to be 500 students over capacity in Mira Monte, 600 over capacity at Ridgeview and (at) Golden Valley,” he said. “We want to relieve some of that growth.”
For this school year alone, the district said it is approximately 2,681 students over capacity, with total enrollment at nearly 40,000.
Cole said the new school is estimated to serve around 2,000 students. Besides the typical classrooms and athletic facilities, a school farm and a Career Technical Education classroom are under consideration.
The new school would be six miles from Lamont, closer than any other KHSD schools. Gonzalez said children from Lamont could attend that high school, but he feels the community deserves its own.
“They’re taking kids away, instead of keeping everyone together,” he said. “Kids in this community should have a school within walking distance.”
Cole said the design process for the school is expected to take up to a year, after which it could take an additional year for plans to be approved by the state. Construction is estimated to begin in 2020 and take two years.
Cole said the boundaries of the new school have yet to be determined. The name of the school will also be determined at a future date after input is gathered from within the district and the community.
“Typically, we start a boundary committee around a year before opening a school,” he said. “We’re hoping to start it a little earlier than that.”
Cole said there have already been some preliminary discussions about what the next school will be. Cole said he couldn’t go into specifics as the district has just begun discussing possibilities.