Opinion

Oakhurst deserves a new college campus

The following states my support of the State Center Community College District (SCCCD) constructing a new college campus in the Oakhurst area. I am responding to the poorly thought out opinion piece “Blueprint for Our Community Colleges,” authored by Miguel Arias and John Leal, two trustees of the district, printed in the June 11 Fresno Bee - an opinion piece denouncing a campus in an “isolated” area such as Oakhurst.

As stated in their article, one of the major goals being considered by the district “staff proposal for a potentially $500 million facilities bond for the district during in 2016.” Among other things Mr. Arias and Mr. Leal stated in their article that: “Simply put, the days of SCCCD constructing additional campuses and centers in isolation …. should be retired.” Instead, unbelievably, Mr. Arias and Mr. Leal state that South Fresno is the prime area to construct a new district campus because “it is a region with the highest level of poverty, an under-skilled workforce, and an under-educated community” and that area is “accessible via public transit.”

In other words, sure, you Oakhurst (foothill area residents) have been paying into the district for many years but so what? You live in an “isolated area.” Instead of having a local campus big enough to handle your needs you should require your local college student’s to drive to south Fresno so they may attend a JC in high poverty, under-skilled, uneducated area.

If any area within the district is in need of, will support, and deserves a new JC campus it is the Oakhurst area.

As a parent do you believe that sending your 18-year-old son or daughter just out of High School into an area in “South Fresno” is an acceptable or good idea? Is a South Fresno campus solution the best “Blueprint” that the district is able to propose?

Many local residents believe that Oakhurst needs a new, larger, permanent SCCCD JC campus. Oakhurst will support a new campus. Presently the Oakhurst campus supports 700+ students, and there are many local students who drive to the Valley to attend class because “our” campus is inadequate.

We need to construct a new campus in the foothills to “keep our students local.” Presently, when students leave town they rarely return to carry out their occupation. If we were able to keep kids local our community will prosper. We should work to keep our kids out of the “high poverty, under-skilled, and under-educated atmosphere.”

Presently the Oakhurst campus is located on 2.73 acres about 1/20 of the FCC parking lot area. The Oakhurst campus consists of a few modular (mobile home type) buildings, and has to use neighboring property for parking because the existing parking is woefully insufficient, and the Oakhurst campus has no room to expand.

When the proposed bond passes the district intends to construct a permanent building on the existing Oakhurst campus thereby locking the Oakhurst campus into its present location for at least the next 40 to 50 years. I suggest that this is 100% unacceptable. We should not allow the district to do this to Oakhurst. Allowing this to occur would be tragic and extremely poor planning by the district.

Oakhurst area residents have been paying into the district for a long time and we respectfully request that we get a new campus.

Fresno City College had an enrollment decline of 12.2% from 2007 to 2011. Reedley, Clovis, Madera and Oakhurst had enrollment increases from 11% to 20%.

The Oakhurst/Ahwahnee/Coarsegold area has ample infrastructure and land available for a new, larger campus on which to construct a decent, permanent campus much like Columbia College. A permanent campus similar to Columbia College would provide an improved way of life for students and the foothill population in general.

An atmosphere of “higher education” will be good for our area. Hotels and motels will have higher off-season occupancy rates when out of town parents visit their kids who elect to come to the Oakhurst Area for an education. Apartments will be constructed for which there is a dire present need. Restaurants will experience increased business activity and possibly we just might be able to arrange for 24 hour medical care, currently a much needed service.

We are now laying the groundwork for acquiring our portion of the funds to construct a new foothill campus in the Oakhurst area. The bond measure to be proposed will be approximately $480-$500 million. The bond will cost taxpayers $20.00+/- per year on each $100,000 of assessed property value. This is only $50 a year for a $250,000 home or approximately 14 cents per day.

The bond should be used to support and serve the entire district, not just “South Fresno” as stated by trustee’s Arias and Leal.

Twenty million dollars will build a new campus for the Oakhurst/foothill area; $20 million is approximately 5% of the planned bond. We want our share.

If the Oakhurst/foothill area gets a new campus, about 5% of the total bond amount, I believe the district should then invest the balance of the bond funds as they determine best for the entire district, not simply in South Fresno.

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