The Department of Defense and Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., celebrated Aug. 9, 2022, during the ribbon cutting for the Desert Junior Senior High School the base in Kern County, Calif.
The event completes a $180 million, 220,000-square-foot, replacement educational complex in response to the Secretary of Defense prioritizing the location to remedy condition and capacity problems at the facility.
The overall effort was enabled through the Department’s Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation’s Public Schools on Military Installations Program, and will support the education of 1,600 students in grades K-12 annually.
“With completion of this complex, our service members and the civilians and contractors who support them can be assured their dependents will have access to quality state-of-the-art educational facilities for years to come,” said Patrick J. O’Brien, Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation Director. “We are happy to have enabled the completion of this 10-plus year effort by the Muroc Joint Unified School District in partnership with the local Edwards AFB leadership and countless state officials over this period to respond to these needs.”
The Muroc Joint Unified School District, the Local Education Agency, operates five schools across 550 plus square miles in Kern and San Bernardino Counties. Three schools — Forbes Elementary, Desert Junior Senior High, and Irving L. Branch Elementary — are on Edwards Air Force Base and were replaced with Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation support after being prioritized by the Secretary of Defense for improvement due to serious condition and capacity issues.
The District received $142.5 million in grant funding from the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation that was matched with $37.2 million from non-Federal state and local sources. These funds helped to address several serious condition and capacity issues, including expired building systems, seismic concerns, foundation failures, localized flooding, and functional deficiencies in food service, information center, special needs, and music.
Without the continued support and advocacy from Congress, the Department of the Air Force, partnerships between the community, service members and their families, the District, and the State of California, this project would not have come to fruition.
“This new school is a reflection of the Muroc Joint Unified School District’s commitment to world class education for our local communities, notes Kevin D. Cordes, Superintendent. We are proud of the collaborations and work that took place to make this vision into a reality.”
The new educational complex will significantly improve the quality of life for military dependents and families, help with recruitment and retention of pilots, and improve the mission readiness of the base. It will also provide incentives for retired pilots to remain and seek employment opportunities in nearby Palmdale, Calif., continuing support for the Edwards mission.