Tutoring academies are springing up in Fremont, as parents desire to increase their childrens' chances of doing well in school. Not everyone is happy about it. Stephanie Chuang reports.
It’s the kind of neighborhood where parents purchase multimillion-dollar homes just to get their kids into the local public school, famous for top state test scores and sending students to the cream of the crop schools -- Mission San Jose in Fremont.
So it may not come as a surprise that a number of tutoring centers are popping up at a very fast rate on Mission Boulevard, along the few blocks that run between Pine Street and Washington Boulevard.
It’s also a nightmare for people like 30-year-old Tony Sandoval. The Union City resident opened a small gym here four years ago and instead of getting better, he says his neighbors are starving him of business.
“Right across from me it says school site. It’s really frustrating.”
They come with titles like “Elite Educational Institute,” “Achiever,” “Berkeley Academy,” and even “Ivy Boost Education.”
Says Sandoval, “ There’s no correlation between my business and theirs. My clients are keeping me solely alive, there’s no such thing as walk-through traffic.”
He says he thinks back to better times, just a matter of months ago, when his next-door neighbor was a frozen yogurt shop. It’s been replaced by a gifted learning center, “Genius Kids.”
“At least when a yogurt stand was in, we could do healthy shakes or this and that. We were going to work towards that but she went out of business. It doesn’t shock me that she went out of business. There’s nothing here!”
Rennu Dhillon started “Genius Kids.” She says she’s been operating the program in the Mission San Jose area for the last nine years, when no one else was around. But now she adds, “Practically shopping centers now are turning into nothing but tutoring centers.”
City of Fremont Principal Planner Kelly Diekmann says the number is close to 15 tutoring centers in that neighborhood alone. Diekmann says tutoring centers are viewed as commercial businesses, and are not mandated to have the same kind of state licensing that childcare centers must have. He adds, as long as the business owner fulfills planning, building and fire guidelines, it’s not up to the city what goes where.
“It’s really market filling space with what the demand is.”
But Dhillon is also upset because she believes some of the tutoring centers are violating their city permits and accuses the city of being blind to it.
“They have no clue people have opened business to get licensed for only 25 kids and now they have 125 kids.”
Diekmann responds the city will investigate claims like those only if someone submits an official complaint.
As for Sandoval, he says being the father of four, from an infant to a 13-year-old, the only thing he is left to do is take it day by day and try not to question his decision to pursue his childhood dream of opening up a small gym.
“It’s tough. Everyday, I wake up thinking man did I make the right decision? I’m really fighting.”