The Bakersfield City School District is planning to install solar panels at Voorhies Elementary in East Bakersfield. In order to do that, they will be cutting down the only shade-producing trees on the campus.
It’s an ironic situation many parents are not happy about. They voiced their protest by showing up to the District’s board meeting wearing green.
Parents say the mulberry trees in question are the only shady spots on the school’s playground, which are especially necessary for the student body of 1,000. Many parents of kids with asthma and respiratory issues voiced their concerns, as well.
Additionally, the trees have sentimental value since they were planted by students in the 80’s.
“We’re really excited to see solar energy in Bakersfield. But what kind of message are we sending our kids when we’re removing the only oxygen-producing, particulate-removing, environmentally-friendly trees on the campus?” said Lori Pesante, a parent leader at Voorhies.
Many parents believe the solution is simple: put the solar panels elsewhere on campus–namely the parking lot or atop the school itself.
However, BCSD says it needs the state’s clearance to put panels on the roof, and the parking lots aren’t large enough for the number of panels they want. The area with the trees will be the most cost-effective.
The District also says they’ve hired an arborist who reports that the trees are actually a hazard.
“Regardless of whether the solar panels are going in or not, according to the experts that have come out to look at the trees, they are saying they pose a hazard to our students, because they are causing a tripping hazard and they are also decaying,” explained BCSD public information officer, Irma Cervantes.
The District argues that they’ve planted 35 new trees and are planning to plant ten more to replace the ones that are cut down.
Despite BCSD’s actions, the parents have created an online petition, which has amassed nearly 400 signatures so far.
The parents are also advocating for more transparency with how green spaces are managed.
The district plans to install solar panels at 14 other schools, as well.
If the trees are to be cut down, that will happen at the end of 2018.