The Kern High School District board of trustees approved land for a new high school in Southeast Bakersfield. It will be the 16th comprehensive high school in Bakersfield, while outlying areas like Lamont, Weedpatch, and Hilltop continue to go without.
Lamont parents say they feel neglected–they’ve been asking for a high school closer to home for over a decade–since 2006.
Currently, for teens in Lamont and Weedpatch, it could take an hour on the bus to get to school every day.
In 2017, Arvin High School bused about 1,400 students from outlying towns–making a total of 70 stops every morning, more than any other high school in the district.
By car, from the furthest point in Lamont, it could take 20 minutes by car to reach Arvin High School. If there were a high school in Lamont, the furthest cross-town commute would take no more than ten minutes.
However, KHSD says there aren’t enough students in Lamont for a high school there to make financial sense.
“In terms of priority and overcrowding and where the next school has to go, the next school can’t be in Lamont,” said KHSD deputy superintendent, Scott Cole.
Jose Gonzalez, speaking for many in Lamont argues, “The community of Lamont has kids in Hilltop, Weedpatch, Rockland Acres. There’s plenty of little pockets you can pull from to bring kids to the community of Lamont.”
So which side do the numbers support? More than 2,500 students attend Arvin High School. And Bakersfield high schools have an average of 2,200 students.
In comparison: according to the California Department of Education, if a Lamont high school were to open, it could serve an estimated 1,500 students. However, the Kern High School District states at least 2,000 students are required to open a school.
“When you have kids that are comparable to the size of the high school out in Lake Isabella, you don’t want to put a high school there, but you’re managing high schools with the same number of kids,” Gonzalez said.
True enough, Kern Valley High School in Lake Isabella serves 463 students.
In the meantime, the new high school in Southeast Bakersfield is slated to be built by 2022, between Cottonwood Road and East Panama Lane.
The KHSD board says it plans to discuss this issue again at a community meeting this fall.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated that if a Lamont high school were to open, it could serve an estimated 600 students. The correct number is 1,500.