MOJAVE — The Mojave Unified School District governing board will once again evaluate what to do with a shuttered school site sitting unused in Cantil.
The discussion came up during the board's regular meeting on Feb. 2. Board member Dr. Larry Adams noted that the district went through a lengthy committee process on what to do with the three-building property a little over a year ago, including turning it into a research location for universities.
"None of those options have come to fruition," Adams said. "The building is still there and it's getting worse every day, falling down and falling apart."
Board president Ted Hodgkinson said a lot of universities and organizations were contacted regarding the property, with a lot of interest shown in the old school site.
"I believe everything has taken a back seat because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so I don't know how long that will be in neutral or if the interest is really there at this point," Hodgkinson said.
Red Rock School was built in 1918, with two additional buildings added to the site in 1937 and 1965 respectively.
The site served students in kindergarten through sixth grade for decades before the district downsized its role to provide education to students through third grade.
Older primary school students either attended school in Mojave or California City. It was later adapted to serve as an alternative school site before it was eventually closed.
The district committee, formed in May 2019 to consider options for the building, concluded it would be best to lease the building as a field research station for universities and other organization. Research teams, before the pandemic's start, already camped in the desert. The old school site would offer some additional amenities and shelter
Toward the end of 2019, the committee formed to evaluate possible options revealed the buildings were in good condition for their age, with the significant issue revolving around the roofs. However, no buyers were interested in purchasing the school site and buildings.
Keith Gainey, assistant superintendent for business, said the goal of offloading the school site hasn't been forgotten and that he speaks with a former committee member every few months, who had been acting as a go-between.
"For some reason, this item has been really hard to find a solid first step on, partially because of the difficulty of contacting the CSU-UC system," Gainey said, referring to the state's two university systems. "We left off with the decision to offer it to the CSU-UC system as a camp in the desert for remote excursions for students."
Gainey noted college students and programs in the past sent excursions out to Red Rock Canyon State Park and the surrounding area to study everything from plants and animals to geology.
Gainey added that school district should take ownership of contacting the universities directly about the Red Rock school site.
"We'd find out if we're running into a brick wall or not," Gainey said. "It could have an impact if they need to come out but can't, or if they're like us in visitors want to come to our school sites but we're not allowing them at this point."
While the school district continues to operate on a distance-learning model due to the pandemic, staff and teachers continue to use school sites. Gainey noted that visitors aren't allowed at the moment to reduce exposure to COVID-19.
Hodgkinson agreed and stated he would follow up with committee members who had connections to universities and organizations to establish a direct contact. Superintendent Dr. Katherine Aguirre said she would also follow that same step.
Adams had some reservations about the old school site's condition.
"The facility is not going to fix itself up," Adams said, pointing out two buildings had leaky roofs, while a third building "is not even worth having."
He added if the district will not do anything about it, "we should offer it to someone ... for a dollar, we'd be better off if we're not going to use it." And cost to fix up the buildings "would be considerable."
Gainey clarified that the feedback from the old committee was that any organization or university who took custody of the school on an "as-is" basis and be responsible for repairs or rehabilitations.
"We haven't even gotten to the point where we are talking to anyone from the UCs or CSUs if they are willing," Gainey said. "That is still the first step ... and really should have been the first step after the committee met and the board decided to follow that path."
Hodgkinson said he would report back to the board after he attempts to make contact.
JACK BARNWELL/MOJAVE DESERT NEWS
The Red Rock Canyon School site sits fenced off and unused in Cantil. The Mojave Unified School District governing board is again considering what to do with the school site.