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.
Mission San Jose in Fremont is the kind of neighborhood where parents purchase multimillion-dollar homes just to get their kids into the local public school. Those schools are famous for top state test scores and sending students to the cream of the crop schools.
So it's no surprise that the number of tutoring centers are popping up at a fast rate along a few blocks of Mission Boulevard that run between Pine Street and Washington Boulevard.
The centers are replacing more conventional retail shops like yogurt stands and children's clothing -- shops that are more conducive to foot traffic and window shopping.
That's a challenge 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 (my business) it says 'school site.' It’s really frustrating. 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,” Sandoval said.
He thinks back to better times, just a few 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It’s been replaced by a gifted learning center, “Genius Kids.”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 (that business owner) went out of business. It doesn’t shock me that she went out of business.
Rennu Dhillon started “Genius Kids” in the Mission San Jose area nine years ago, 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 said there are around 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.
Diekman said 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,” Sandoval said. “I even spoke to one of the owners here and he said that’s what’s selling right now so that’s what we’re going to keep going with.” 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,” she said.
The mayor said 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.”