With PBVUSD planning the boundaries of a brand new college, it has to contemplate Bakersfield’s progress on the west facet of the information
The Panama-Buena Vista Union School District’s newest school, Highgate Elementary, is due to open in August. Now the district is faced with the question of where these students and staff will be from. On February 9, the district employees will make a recommendation, which the board is expected to vote on.
As the borough draws new school boundaries and redraws old ones on the fast-developing western edge of Bakersfield, it tries to strike a balance with the voices of the current school community – taking into account how the school population will change in the next two, five or 10 years.
If the school opened with just students from the new Highgate estate west of Allen Road and south of Ming Avenue, it would have 76 students in a school that was built for 700 people.
Hence, the district needs to attract students from nearby overcrowded elementary schools like Buena Vista and Ronald Reagan, who have so far carried the brunt of Bakersfield’s western expansion. It is also planned that students one day will arrive in the area west of Allen Road between Ming and the railroad tracks known as West Ming.
District employees have been working on developing the school boundaries since autumn. This month they took the question to union officials and began sending polls and holding several virtual “bugging posts” for 3,000 families.
At a board meeting last week, staff presented four scenarios and recommended one to the board based on input from the community. After the board meeting, two more were created in response to contributions from the community and the board. Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Jennifer Irvin warned that border changes are always difficult.
“You will hear me say the word ’emotional’ more than once,” Irvin told the board on January 19th. “Boundary modifications and changes are emotional. They affect our community, our employees and our school.”
The board meeting received 65 public comments, 49 of them from the growing Belcourt community on the southwest corner of Buena Vista Road and White Lane. Many others came from Grand Island, a neighborhood south of Ming bordered by Buena Vista Road and Allen Road.
Belcourt students are currently visiting McAuliffe and some suggestions retain the current 64 students in the field, but many parents argued that their students should visit Highgate. One parent said their family moved to Belcourt, assuming their daughter would go to kindergarten to attend Highgate next year.
A letter signed by nearly 60 families on Grand Island demands that children stay in Reagan Elementary as the Buena Vista Elementary school boundaries changed in their neighborhood in 2014.
“Three elementary school changes in seven years are too many for a family,” said Antonio DeVincentis’ letter.
DeVincentis, the father of six, said his children will spend a total of 18 years in PBVUSD, which is no small problem for him. He has one student in middle school, three students in Reagan and two who will be in elementary school.
He initially said the Grand Island community felt their concerns were not heard, but he said the board and staff have responded over the past week and are optimistic about the outcome. The staff have made two new proposals that will keep Grand Island in Reagan.
“I think these last two scenarios are what the community wants,” said DeVincentis.
The last two suggestions made by the staff over the past week also included Belcourt students in the Highgate Elementary.
Glenn Imke, assistant superintendent of business services, also said the new proposals took seriously the board’s comment that Highgate is opening up room for growth. That’s important for the district of 18,536 students, which has grown an average of 2 percent each year for the past 20 years.
After the board meeting, Imke said the district had met with local developers to learn more about the West Ming area. Nearly 1,000 units will be built at Belcourt and Highgate each, but an additional 5,000 homes are expected to be built in that area. Imke said that at the speed at which they are building, that could mean an additional 800 students over the next five to seven years. That’s easily the size of another school that Imke said is about five years away.
Highgate was built for 700 students – and up to 1,000 with portable devices. The original recruitment proposal, which was tabled last week, said that Highgate Elementary would be just under staffed with 629 students. However, the two new proposals leave significant room for growth with proposals for 396 or 511 students.
All suggestions come from the elementary schools of Buena Vista and Reagan, which, according to Imke, are in need of relief. Reagan Elementary is already at the top of its capacity with 912 students and nearly 1,000 could cause problems.
“Water, sewage and electricity become a problem when you have so many students,” he said.
Buena Vista Elementary was a farm school originally designed for 300 students, but at one point it had 1,200 students. Not only does it have portable classrooms but it also has a second portable cafeteria. There have been problems with septic tanks and sewers, Imke said. All of the proposals have boundary changes that would bring 256 students from Buena Vista to Highgate and reduce the population to 646.
The district continues to seek community comments through parent polls. To add your comment, send an email to [email protected] Visit https://bit.ly/3t3zPLG to see the district presentation.