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By Tina Fisher Cunningham
The Forde Files 

District razes unfixable agriculture buildings

The Forde Files No 103


Tina Fisher Cunningham

Rusted water troughs resting in a feeding crib bear mute testimony to the animals that Tehachapi High School students cared for until about 2000 as an excavator loads broken concrete to be hauled away.

When the board of the Arts, Science & Technology Educational Corporation of Tehachapi (AST) started looking for a site for their STEAM Center (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts/Agriculture, Mathematics), their first notion was to rehabilitate the agricultural buildings at Jacobsen Middle School.

But the animal stalls and barns proved to be irretrievable. Lack of teachers for the ag program at the then-Tehachapi High School and a drop in membership of the 4-H and Future Farmers of America had led to gradual disuse of the buildings. Then the high school moved to new quarters on Dennison in 2003.

"I met with Joel [Beckmann, chairman of the AST board]," said Kirk Gilbert, director of maintenance, operations, transportation and facilities for the Tehachapi Unified School District. "He has a passion for agriculture, engineering, aerospace. He was looking at the possibility of one location [for the center]. There was so much work at Jacobsen to bring it to the point it could be used. It had deteriorated. There was lead paint. There was not enough money to make it habitable to get to the point it could be used for a volunteer program."

Tina Fisher Cunningham

The excavator takes a bite out of a building.

The district ordered the buildings razed. The new STEAM Center will be located at Tehachapi High School (See story next page). A modular unit will be moved from Monroe High School to house fabrication and machine shops. The newer ag barns at THS, used briefly for small animals and sheep, will become part of the Center. The site turned out to be what Gilbert calls "a blank canvas."

"His vision is interesting – so wonderful for the district." Gilbert said of Beckmann. "We are willing to do whatever we can from the district side to assist."

Beckmann's vision, he said, may make it possible to fire up some programs, Gilbert said. "We have equipment for the welding and small engine repair programs mothballed. They are in good condition." The former ag acreage at Jacobsen may become a play area.


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