The Needles (Calif.) Unified District says the long delayed opening of an elementary school in Big River has again been postponed.
The Needles Desert-Star reports that seven years after the school campus was constructed, the facility still will not be ready to welcome students in August. Since it was built in 2010, the school has been plagued with problems involving drinking water, wastewater treatment and electricity.
While waiting for the school to open, elementary students in the area have been attending classes across the Colorado River in Arizona. Needles district officials had informed the Parker (Ariz.) district in October that the students would not need to return, but in March, Parker officials were notified that the Big River school would not be ready, The Parker Pioneer reported.
Needles Superintendent Mary McNeill says the electricity installation will be completed after spring break; however, a recent inspection has revealed the school needs more upgrades, especially to the fire alarm system.
“Two to three weeks ago I received news that the fire alarm system will only work when it’s 104 degrees or less," says McNeill. "In order for the fire alarm system to work, I need to build a shed around the fire alarm control panel area, air condition it and insulate it."
Before the most recent setback, the school was believed to be on track for opening in August. It was built in 2010 to replace Parker Dam Elementary School, which closed in 2009. The state of California agreed to build the school for $13 million on a site near the Colorado River Indian Reservation on land held by the Bureau of Land Management.
The school did not have access to drinking water until the district reached an agreement with the Colorado River Indian Tribes to purchase water from the Tribes. To solve the school's wastewater problem, a treatment facility was built on the site.
To get electrical service to the school, the Needles district had to resolve jurisdictional issues involving Southern California Edison and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The school is within Edison’s service area, but it would be costly for the utility to run lines to the school. The BIA has electrical lines close to the school, but the school sits just outside the Colorado River Indian Reservation.