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Lakeside's water woes, school looking for means to purify drinking water

Posted at 8:51 PM, Nov 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-14 23:51:31-05
  • Since 2009, the level of arsenic in the well that supplies the school with all of its water has been deemed undrinkable.
  • To supply students and staff with safe drinking water, the school has received state funding for water bottles, coolers, and gallon jug. However, that funding is set to expire in February.
  • In the video, you'll hear from a mother of a student at Lakeside, as well as the District's Superintendent Ty Bryson.

Lakeside, a rural school in the heart of Southwest Bakersfield, may have Chromebooks in the classroom but they don't have safe drinking water.

"She usually brings her own water bottle," said Denisha Hosey, a mother of a Lakeside fourth grader.

Hosey said she needed to transfer her daughter to the Lakeside School District recently. When she did though, she knew little about the school's water troubles. As she's learned more, her concern as a mother, and a nurse, grew.

"I remember when I was in school I was thirsty all the time, and they need to stay hydrated and its very important," she said.

Since 2009, the level of arsenic in the well that supplies the school with all of its water has been deemed undrinkable. While this was news to Hosey, for most of the parents at Lakeside it has just become a part of their daily routine. Kids get sent to school with water bottles and instead of fountains, the school has water coolers and paper cups.

"Instead of spending money on kids were spending it on water," said Superintendent Ty Bryson.

Bryson said it's not just an issue of hydration when it comes to their water woes. Over the years the state's Rural Community Assistant Corp. has provided the school with water bottles and jugs, but that was only a band aid on a bigger problem.

In 2019, the state attempted to require consolidation between the City of Bakersfield and Lakeside under SB-88, but that failed. Now the school is facing potentially drowning in debt because the funding that pays for their bottled water is set to expire in February.

"We're optimistic we'll get an extension and if that doesn't happen then that money is going to have to come out of our general funds," Bryson said. "Right now we're being reimbursed by Rural Assistance but if we had to pay for that it would hurt us."

Bryson said the cost would be tens of thousands of dollars. Money that could be going to school resources, programs, and other services like transportation. At the time being they're looking for other means of funding, but Bryson hopes to find a more permanent solution.

The last time the state and school attempted to consolidate with the City, it was under former City Manager Allen Tandy. Bryson said he may try to bring the issue to current City Manager Christian Clegg. Spokesperson Joe Conroy said the City has no comment at this time.

Meanwhile Lakeside's sister school in the district, Suburu, has been able to escape these troubles. It's location within the Silver Creek neighborhood means the have domestic water service, unlike the well that rural Lakeside relies on.

This stark difference pulling interest from some parents like Hosey.

"I'm going to try to see what I can do to transfer her," she said.

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