Tensions rise as the district and developers struggle to compromise
On October 16, Fremont Patterson Ranch LLC and Brookfield Bellaire LLC home developers filed a lawsuit against Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) for not assigning their new houses to a school. Approximately a month ago, September 9, when this lawsuit was only a threat, a public meeting of the Fremont Board of Education at Technology Drive addressed the tension between KB Homes (including other developers) and FUSD.
“They have a school assignment; and that assignment is unassigned,” Dr. Jim Morris, superintendent of FUSD, said. “A child may not be able to go to their traditional home school; the overload is so bad that siblings may have to go to different schools.”
During the school board meeting, public input on unassigned schooling was extremely diverse, as it was derived from personal experience and sympathy.
“I feel uncomfortable that so many homes will be built in that area, but not provide a school for children,” Mary Murray, a Forest Park kindergarten teacher against the unassigned schooling, said. Murray brought a petition from her school, signed by all staff, which stated that City of Fremont and the school district must work together to demand developers build more schools.
Tara Habibi, an American High student, agreed the development should be unassigned, stating that “the quality of our schools diminishes when overcrowding becomes an issue, and it already is.”
Other areas in Fremont have begun to tackle the overcrowding issue. At the meeting, Dr. Morris introduced plans to build a new elementary school in the Warm Springs South Fremont community and to transfer some students in the Irvington High School attendance area to Walter Junior High School and Kennedy High School. However, building and expanding schools requires cooperation from developers, which the American attendance area has not gotten.
“The new school in the south is a much larger project with thousands of homes,” Dave Lanferman representing KB Homes and DR Horton said at the meeting. “This [new Patterson Ranch houses] is a modest development of 500 and is not of the scale to build a new school.”
Lanferman was referring to the statutory fee of $5.70 per square foot paid to developers when a new house is built. In order to mitigate the cost of a new school, a fee of at least $17 per square foot is required, tripling the developer’s fee, and in the eyes of KB Homes, making their houses unattractively expensive.
“When you drive by and see a cute, new elementary school, you’ll feel gratified to buy an expensive house and you’ll definitely want your kid to go there,” Dr. Morris remarked, predicting the success of the new Warm Springs school.
FUSD owns a large, 33-acre piece of dry land, which is empty except for a few horses and dry grass, next to McDonald’s. Its area is close to twice the size of Thornton Junior High School, and talk of creating a new middle school or elementary school has bounced around FUSD meetings.