January 23, 2007 > An interview with school board president Nina Moore
An interview with school board president Nina Moore
Fremont's school board president talks about the proposed [Fremont] A's ballpark/village development and the ABC's of development impact on local schools.
TCV: Is there a good appreciation of the impact of major development on the school district by the city council, planning department and developers?
Moore: We have a closer relationship than we have ever had before. It is a good working relationship with communication of developments that are coming down the pipeline. We need to have a conversation at one of our joint meetings (Fremont City Council/Fremont Unified School District) to discuss specific impacts to schools in various parts of our city. We are in the middle of creating a Facility Master Plan for the district and in the appendix is a listing of all city development projects and their status. There are some big projects coming up and that is where we have to start the communication.
One factor that we face is that we have areas of our town where schools are heavily impacted and we have an "overload" while there are other areas where we have open spaces. This has been a challenge for a long time. This is one reason we instituted boundary changes and they did help but the problem doesn't go away. Today, we have far fewer overloads than we did five or six years ago, but we still have them. Unfortunately, development doesn't always occur where we have classroom space.
Another thing that is going on here and in many areas of the state is declining enrollment. When that happens, you lose funding for schools (based on student population). This loss of students does not necessarily happen all in the same location. We don't, for instance, see a loss of 30 students at one school so we can drop a class at one place to solve the problem. Costs do not decelerate at the same rate that funding decelerates.
We are working with the state to try to mitigate the effects of declining enrollment using averaging over a period of years or other methods to address this problem. In a preliminary report that we received a few months ago, it was estimated that over the next 6 years, our enrollment will decline by 850 kids. That represents a lot of money to us - around $5 or $6 million. Yet during the interim period, we still have crowding and overloading going on. This is the estimate with the developments we know of and are currently in the plan.
TCV: How does the Patterson Ranch and "A's" development impact this?
Moore: If we look at the Patterson Ranch development with 600 - 1200 homes and a generation of about .5 students per home, that could be 300 - 600 students. The "A's" development of approximately 3,000 homes may generate another 1,500 students. Now we are not talking about declining enrollment but instead, not having enough space and certainly not having space where the students would be living. We have no schools where these developments are envisioned.
TCV: How will the school district balance these forces?
Moore: One of the things we have looked at for the first time is the average generation of students per household based on location. Overall, it has been reported that the average is .4 students per household but that varies by the area of town. For instance, there are differences between the Mission San Jose area and Vallejo Mills and between types of schools such as junior high school and high school. The average elementary rate per home is .214 students; .068 for junior high; .127 for high school. So if we looked at a development of 3,000 homes similar to the "A's" proposed village, using these figures, there would be 642 elementary students, 204 junior high school students and 381 high school students located there. If you build an elementary school, you may take care of elementary grade students, but you still have to deal with the impact on junior high schools and high schools. Currently, we have no extra space at any of our high schools.
TCV: Are the student generation statistics changing?
Moore: We have used a different generation rate for single family homes versus apartments. Apartments always had a much lower student generation rate. When we, in Fremont, started talking about townhomes, one of the questions asked was, what do we know about the student generation rate? We know very little because this is a new phenomenon.
It is clear that the overall rate does change over time because in the 1970s, Fremont had a population of 100,000 and the student population was 32,000. Now our population is approximately 210,000 and our student population is a little over 31,000. We are hearing from demographers and developers that townhomes have the same student generation rate as single family homes. It is still early, but that is the trend.
TCV: How will the district handle new developments such as proposed by the "A's"?
Moore: Looking at the potential impact, the district needs to have extensive conversations about the need for schools and how to configure the district to accommodate the influx of students. This has to be discussed early in the process so we can understand what the impact will be.
Having talked of the challenges of a development such as the "A's" plans, there is also huge potential for Fremont. It can bring substantial new revenue because we become a destination and if the school district share in some of that, it would be great. Think of our sports teams receiving help with transportation needs or a boost to our extracurricular programs. The Teen Center that was built a few years ago was supposed to be open every day as a place for kids to "hang out." We had a vision of many services that would be provided. There is a huge potential for the A's to help with youth activities and support programs - contributions in many ways.
TCV: Has the school system been engaged yet in conversation with the A's?
Moore: This is at a very early stage and we have not spoken with them yet. We do want to part of the primary discussions and I am optimistic that we will be. This is a tremendous opportunity and opens tremendous possibilities for Fremont. However, we would be sticking our heads in the sand if all we saw was the upside and didn't consider the impacts of additional students. We cannot have that as an afterthought of this plan; it must be a primary part of the process. As discussions progress, we need to make sure that the schools needs and opportunities are addressed as well as other aspects of the community.