From Sunday’s print edition …
FREMONT — With a low crime rate, high-quality schools and a growing tech sector in an improving economy, Fremont has caught the eye of covetous home developers.
But several residential developments soon will add thousands of students to already overcrowded campuses, which school leaders say could damage the quality of education, strain district resources, send students out of their neighborhoods and add to traffic as parents drive kids to those more distant schools.
District leaders say they are close to a crisis point.
And even though it is likely developers will largely finance one new school, the leaders also want voters to approve a $650 million school bond — Alameda County’s largest ever — on the June ballot to ease existing and anticipated overcrowding. That has some parents saying developers should start paying much more in development fees to Fremont Unified, so that property owners aren’t burdened with more tax debt.
“I don’t think it would be fair to saddle taxpayers with costs for a new school,” Fremont resident Mary Biggs said. “You can’t constantly turn to the taxpayers.”
Forest Park Elementary’s overcrowding reflects the district’s challenge, said Superintendent of Schools James Morris. Its 982-student enrollment is well above the ideal maximum, 850 students, for an elementary campus. But it could be worse, as another 215 neighborhood students who normally would attend Forest Park attend other campuses outside their area, district leaders said.
Several other schools are crowded in Fremont Unified, where 33,662 students attend 42 campuses. Enrollment has grown by 2,000 students in the past six years, and 1,500 more are expected by 2017. The district has added portable classrooms as a short-term solution, but it is running out of room, Morris said.
“It’s a problem, and we don’t have the capacity to solve it,” he said. “We just can’t continue like this because we don’t have the seats available for more students.”
And it might get worse before it gets better.
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