After Bakersfield College promised Arvin residents it would open a campus in 2021, BC officials told the community Tuesday it won’t finish the project for another few years.
BC officials unveiled a detailed timeline and plan for its satellite campus in Arvin. Construction is scheduled to begin in August 2021, and the project is expected to be complete in May 2023. Officials did not say when the campus will open.
“I know everyone looks across the street, and you see that property over there and wonder when is that college going to come over there,” said Bill Potter, the director of maintenance and operations at Bakersfield College.
After residents advocated for a campus for years, the city of Arvin gifted the plot of land in early 2018 to Bakersfield College to build the school. Officials promised to break ground in the Spring of 2018 and open a campus in 2021, according to a report by The Bakersfield Californian.
Kern Community College District Trustee Bill Thomas said, “If you have a student going in as a freshman right now, they’ll have a college by the time they graduate right across the street,” according to The Californian.
The delay comes after BC officials learned of multiple easements on the property. An easement is a legal right to use land for a specific purpose, but the legal title to the land remains with the owner.
“We wish we could have broken ground months ago,” said Norma Rojas-Mora, BC’s communication’s director.
BC is in the process of having those easements removed.
Although the project has been delayed, some work has been done.
Quad Knopf has performed a study to determine how to spend the money allocated to the project.
The program is expected to cost $23 million, and the new campus will be about 27,000 square feet, officials said Tuesday.
Some features include a library for research and quiet study space; flexible classrooms that can hold 32 to 64 students; a writing center; an open study hall with group study rooms; and a tutoring center with private tutoring rooms and computer labs.
BC has also requested the required California Environmental Quality Act study be done. It is expected to be completed September 2019, officials said.
Officials said BC has yet to secure an architect for the project, but hopes to by December 2019.
BC staff said Tuesday they feel confident about the new detailed construction timeline, but they aren’t promising an opening date or discussing curriculum just yet.
“Those conversations will happen a little further down the road,” said Tamara Baker, a program manager with Bakersfield College.
In 2018, Potter said the center in Arvin will be pushed through the Division of State Architects office to expedite the construction process, The Californian reported.
“We’re fast tracking this,” Potter said in 2018. “It’s not that far off. The students right now who are in high school will benefit from this program as soon as we get it through.”
The 20-mile commute to and from Arvin and Bakersfield College is a hardship for many in the community.
Arvin High alum Susanna Muralles said Kern Regional Transit makes a direct trip to the Bakersfield campus, but depending on what time her classes start, she sometimes has to leave her house two hours in advance.
“It is a struggle trying to get there every morning,” said Muralles.
Although Muralles can’t take advantage of the satellite campus, she hopes her young sister Emma Muralles can when she graduates from Arvin High in two years.
In the meantime, BC officials said there are options while the campus is being built.
Residents can take advantage of BC’s Early College program — a program that began in 2017 that allows high school students to take college courses after school and receive credit. Officials also encouraged community members to take courses available in the evenings. And students at Arvin High can take college-qualifying classes during the school day through BC’s dual enrollment program.
South Kern Sol is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, youth reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.