RIFLE RANGE RESURRECTED

Until recently, a basement storeroom at East Bakersfield High School was a littered mess of broken down copiers, leftover desks and supplies.

That was until a teacher’s kid found out that storage area was a firing range and chose to return it to its former glory for his Eagle Scout Project. He moved out the copiers, painted the walls and dug up old photos of shooting teams from years past to hang on the walls.

The school even secured an NRA grant worth about $10,000 to pay for guns. Now the district is considering bringing back an air rifle team.

“I like the ability of students who are physically disabled (to) participate in this,” Kern High School District Trustee Mike Williams said, adding it would meet Title IX requirements because shooting is a co-ed sport. “It meets lots of criteria. I think it’s great.”

While touring the basement range, East High Principal Leo Holland pointed out team photos from 1946 displayed in the waiting room.

“This is the best part,” he said, pointing out the wide smiles on the faces of the women’s team, while the men were just trying to look tough.

The firing range was actually part of the original design of the school building, constructed during a post-World War II era of fear of communist espionage, Holland said.

“In many war project schools, this is what you saw. They were constructed out of fear of communist doom,” Holland said. The program was shuttered in the early 1970s, along with a military science program -- both probable casualties of anti-war sentiment, Holland said.

When custodians pulled back a metal curtain where targets hung during the cleanup efforts, they found crushed .22-caliber bullets, one custodian said. If the district approves an air rifle team, members won’t be firing any projectile that large, Holland said.

Instead, they’d be firing pellets out of rifles powered with compressed air. The rifles have a velocity of 600 feet per second, roughly half that of a small bore rifle, which is considered non-lethal.

PUBLIC TRUSTEE, PRIVATE EDUCATION

Chad Vegas, an elected trustee at a public high school district, hosted an informational meeting this week for parents seeking alternatives to public education.

Vegas said the event, which was hosted Sunday at Sovereign Grace Church, where he’s a pastor, had a good turnout and covered charter schools, Christian schools and homeschool organizations.

“Reformation comes slow, but it has begun,” Vegas wrote after Sunday’s meeting.

Vegas denounced public schools this year after announcing he would not seek re-election to the Kern High School District board of trustees in November because enforcing a slew of robust anti-discrimination laws concerning transgender students “violates (his) religious conscience.” He’s been on the board for 12 years.

He told The Californian that after November, he will seek ways to create a Christian alternative to public education. Then, weeks later, he wrote on Facebook that he was “dreaming of an educational summit” to help parents learn “why and how to abandon the public education system as an option for their kids.”

Sunday’s meeting was not a start to that vision, Vegas said Wednesday while traveling to a board meeting for a school he started in Mexico.

“This meeting was just a last-minute, ‘here are options for you prior to the school year starting’ kind of meeting,” Vegas said. “I hope to do a much larger conference in the future … focused on Christian education.”

Vegas said he has “always been a fan” of Christian education and serves as a public trustee because “not everyone can afford private Christian education.”

“I am a fan of giving children a great education,” Vegas said.

KHSD RACE HEATING UP

At least one candidate has emerged for Vegas’ KHSD seat.

Jen Bloomquist, who filed candidacy papers Aug. 1 and has described herself as a “Godless liberal,” has been critical of Vegas’ ideologies and political leanings.

Bloomquist entered the race with less than $175 and was $44 in debt on June 30, the end of the most recent campaign finance filing period.

Although nobody else has filed to run in Area 3, which includes much of southwest Bakersfield, Vegas said he met with a potential candidate this month who said he would run for the school board. If that happens, Vegas said, he would support him.

VOLUNTEERS SOUGHT

The Kern County Superintendent of Schools office is seeking volunteers for the annual Kern County Community Reading Project.

The program recruits and trains reading coaches for local second-grade students.

“The program is a perfect opportunity for community members who would like to make a positive impact in the lives of young students who are experiencing challenges in learning to read,” Teresa Twisselman, an English coordinator at KCSOS, said. “One hour a week is all it takes to help four children become successful readers.”

Volunteers attend a two-hour training, then commit one hour, one day a week for at least one semester to help teach youngsters how to read.

Those interested should attend one of the following training sessions: 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 7; 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8; or 9 to 11 a.m. Sept. 10 at the City Centre, 1300 17th St. No pre-registration is necessary.

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