Following major renovations that began almost 10 years ago, the Irving L. Branch Elementary School and the William A. Bailey Elementary School officially re-opened for education during a ribbon cutting ceremony Aug. 13, 2021.
The two schools, both located at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., are part of the Muroc Joint United School District.
Kevin Cordes, the Muroc Joint Unified School District superintendent, hosted the ceremony that signified the schools official return to an operational status.
The schools were originally built in the 1950s, but in recent decades, it had become apparent the buildings were no longer what they once were.
“What you would see is inside of these buildings that did not look very well on the outside, there were phenomenal things happening. There were great learning opportunities, kids were having engaged lessons, exciting things were happening,” Cordes said. “But if you drove by outside, you probably didn’t want to stop by to check it out. It did not look like a very inviting school setting.”
The renovation process involved multiple agencies and local civic leaders. According to Cordes, through the Public Schools on Military Installations program, the MJUSD was able to partner with governor’s office, U.S. Congress and the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation.
“Our community is known for testing and developing cutting edge technology, those advances begin with a firm academic foundation. That is why I appreciate the critical role teachers play in helping our kids thrive and updated facilities such as the ones we are celebrating today only enhance our teachers’ ability to provide our children with a first-rate education,” said Congressman Kevin McCarthy.
“Over the years I’ve been proud to support efforts to enhance schools on military installations to ensure that the children of our military and government civilian families receive the best education possible. This event is an important milestone to better position our students, so they are equipped to handle the challenges of the future,” McCarthy added.
The renovated schools include the latest technology amenities for both faculty and students. They also include improvements such as larger, energy efficient windows that help facilitate more natural lighting in the classrooms. The schools furthermore utilize an innovative approach to use shared facilities between all three schools (Desert Junior-Senior High School) on the campus.
“This is what they have deserved, this is what they do deserve,” Cordes said. “These schools are intended to stand for 50 to 70 years.”
The completion of the updated schools hit close to home for California Assemblyman Tom Lackey who became emotional during his remarks. He said that the new schools reminded him of his father and his upbringing in nearby Boron.
“School facilities on this base, have been a problem since the 70s. This has been a problem for a long, long time. So this is very moving to me, to see this happen. Money is responsible for so many things, and also so many problems, but without it, this doesn’t happen. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be even a little bit responsible for something this good actually finally, finally happening.”
Bailey and Branch both had “soft” openings toward the end of the previous school year when COVID-19 precautions allowed in-person learning. School officials took lessons learned from the soft opening to further refine their student admittance procedures for this year school year.