Within the last few months, the Fremont Unified School District has been looking to purchase land to build a new elementary school. The site in question is an empty piece of land found behind Washington High School, bordered by Eggers Drive. According to a preliminary environmental assessment, soil samples collected in July of 2019 show that the soil is contaminated by chemicals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury. While the amounts are not harmful, it does call into question how FUSD spends and manages its money.
Because the land hasn’t been bought yet, there is debate whether the land is necessary for the district to use, and if a new elementary school is necessary. While there is a surplus of elementary school students within our district, there is already a plan in place to fix this issue: FUSD has implemented a middle school conversion program that will allow sixth grade to be grouped with seventh and eighth. This program, combined with the fact that the district is no longer growing as quickly, will ease the overcrowding of our elementary schools. “I feel strongly that we can find another much cheaper solution to the overcrowding at our elementary schools,” says Bryan Gebhardt, a parent and retired member of the Fremont Unified school board. “The demographic projections show that we have capacity across the district and if we can find a workable set of boundary changes we can use the facilities we already have.”
In addition, the location of the potential school is unsatisfactory regarding traffic and parking. The lot is very close to both Washington High School and Centerville Jr. High. Both schools already experience a lot of drop-off traffic as well as morning commute traffic. Throwing a new school in the mix will complicate any morning errands for anybody living in the area.
Moreover, maintenance of the site has already cost $91,405.13, as shown on the district’s annual accounting developing fees report for the 2017-2018 school year. A new elementary school can cost up to $300 per square foot. The current financial plight regarding district spending and teacher salary cannot afford to take that big of a hit.
In January of 2014, the district’s Long Range Facilities Plan projected that any school renovations planned for the future would cost around $1.6 billion. In June 2014, Fremont voters passed the Measure E bond of $650 million, which helped aid the district financially for a short time. Although it was helpful, this bond failed to meet the requirement for new facilities at the time. Since 2014, there has been an improvement of many campuses district-wide as well as the implementation of new courses. Along with that comes the need for new technology or textbooks to support updated curriculum. Therefore, there is an increased demand for money which is becoming harder and harder for the district to meet.
However, the Fremont Unified School District is implementing budget cuts rather than directing money towards departments that have expressed a need for it. Money is being taken up by a site that may not even be purchased, considering the results of the preliminary environmental assessment and the order of ‘No Further Action’, which means that any sort of work on the land is not recommended. This affects many students, especially those who want to partake in extracurriculars or advanced classes that require proper materials.