New Private Elementary School Proposed for Roosevelt Neighborhood

The school would exist on site at the Redwood Baptist Church on Euclid Avenue, not far from Roosevelt School - but neighbors aren't happy about the idea.

At its Tuesday night meeting, the Redwood City Planning Commission entertained a proposal from a husband-and-wife team that wants to start a new private school for the transitional kindergarten through fifth grades on site at the Redwood Baptist Church, 2323-2325 Euclid Ave., not far from the existing public Roosevelt School.

Nicholas and Carol Berg say they will call the school The Cambridge Academy, and would welcome up to 180 students in total and charge approximately $11,000 to $12,000 per year for tuition.

However, many neighbors who live close to Redwood Baptist Church don't seem happy about the idea. They say traffic is already heavy during morning commute hours in the neighborhood - particularly due to its proximity to both Roosevelt School and Highway 101 - and fear it would only get worse with the addition of a school of that size.


The site's controversial history

According to the City of Redwood City, a previous school that operated at the church left a bad taste in many mouths just a few years ago.

The private Woodside Hills Christian Academy (WHCA) suddenly sprouted up at the same location back in 2007 - before receiving permission from the City.

The K-12 school suddenly pumped roughly 101 new loud, bustling families into the formerly quiet neighborhood - blocking driveways, double parking, dangerously jaywalking and upping the noise level of the residential neighborhood significantly.

As neighbors complained, the City downgraded the school's capacity, first to 80 students, then to 50, and the school was eventually closed down in 2009.

A few families that have lived in their adjacent homes for several decades, including during the rocky WHCA times, said it was "disastrous."

Dawn Ward, who lives in the 1000 block of Connecticut Drive, right near the end of the church's long driveway in which the Bergs say 35-45 cars could line up to drop off students, said, "I was very aware of WHCA. When it opened, it had 100 students and it was very disastrous in terms of traffic, noise and use of the facilities."

"Thirty-five cars is a long line of cars to have in your backyard," she said.

Ward said she is even more concerned when she hears that the new Cambridge Academy school wants to enroll up to double what WHCA did.

"I don't see how the children could be safe, adding 200 more to that mix, as it is proposed now. That's my concern now, and I think it's shared by many of our neighbors," she added. "And I think we should support public schools, so I don't think we need a new private one in that location."


The vision for the new school

Nicholas and Carol Berg say their vision is for Cambridge Academy to be "a small, family-run business whose focus will always be 'students first.'"

The school will offer transitional kindergarten (TK) through fifth grade, and the Bergs say they want to start small and gradually build up the student body.

In the first year, they say they would enroll only 65 students, the second year 120 students, the fourth year 140 students, the fifth year 150 students, and finally, in its sixth year, potentially reach its proposed maximum capacity of 180 students.

The Bergs say they want no class to have more than 20 students, and that the school's foundational core will be "the 3 Rs" - reading, writing and arithmetic.

To deal with potential traffic issues during morning drop-off time, the Bergs have proposed staggered class start times, with second through fifth grades starting between 7:45-8:00 a.m., and TK through first grades starting between 8-8:15 a.m. Drop-off times would be staggered similarly, with the older students leaving at 3-3:15 p.m. and the younger students at 3:15-3:30.

Additionally, the school would offer after-school care until 6 p.m.

The Bergs also say they have the full support of the church, and that they would strive to never hold events at the same time as church activities. Pastor Ryan Johnson, who was present at the meeting, said most church activities take place on Sundays, though the church does have a 7 p.m. Wednesday service that usually attracts around 50 people.

To calm some fears, the Bergs also said they plan to promote the school as a "neighborhood-serving school," and not attempt to attract students from all over the Peninsula who would need to commute there.

"We would like to see this be a neighborhood-serving school, and encourage the students and their families to be 'green' and walk to school," Nicholas Berg said. "We don't intend to bus people in from other areas; we plan to promote this school to the local neighborhood."

However, one Connecticut Avenue resident shot down that statement, saying that, on at least the three closest streets to his home, which is right near the church, "there are no young kids," and that all the homes are owned by older residents like him who all bought their homes back in the 1970s and have lived there ever since.

The Bergs said they also hope the school will really add to the value and benefit of Redwood City by creating local jobs and increasing the values of nearby homes, as well as attract new home-buyers to the area.

Again, however, local neighbors present at the meeting disagreed with that philosophy.

One female resident of the immediate neighborhood said that she consulted real estate agents when she first heard the new school was being proposed, and learned that a home near "good public schools" can experience positive valuation, but not when the school is private, unless it's a very affluent neighborhood overall.

Furthermore, she said, because of her home's close proximity to the church's long driveway where cars would queue up for drop-off, that her home's most recent assessed value had decreased.


Does Redwood City need more schools?

Mike Kastrop, the proposed architect for the Cambridge Academy project who would be in charge of remodeling the facilities to accomodate the new school, was the sole speaker in favor of the proposal at Tuesday night's Planning Commission meeting.

Kastop is also the president of Redwood City's Downtown Business Group.

"Redwood City is expanding and growing; we're going thru a 'renaissance' right now," he said. "Yes, we have traffic, but we need to get over it and deal with it."

Kastrop pointed out that there are at least 1,000 new living units either under construction or in the planning process currently in Redwood City.

"These families are going to need more good schools," he said.

Nicholas Berg echoed that sentiment, and said that, by his research, 15 out of the 16 closest private schools all have long waiting lists, so he feels there is truly a need for such a school in the area.


Commissioners tentative about project idea

While Tuesday night's meeting was only the first study session on the idea of the Cambridge Academy's proposal, most Planning Commissioners seemed hesitant to express support for the new school just yet.

Most said "location, location, location" was what was most on their minds at this early stage.

"Is this the right time, right place, right location? That's what I'm struggling with right now," said Commissioner Randy Tabing.

Tabing said, from his perspective, the greatest growth Redwood City is currently experiencing is in the downtown area, so perhaps additional schools are needed there, more than in the area surrounding Redwood Baptist Church, where Roosevelt School is only 100 feet away.

Commissioner Shawn White said he spent "half his life in public schools, and certainly benefited from it," so he could see the need for new, quality private schools in Redwood City, but that the potential increase in traffic in the neighborhood was what concerned him at the moment.

Chairman Ernie Schmidt agreed.

"My concerns right off the bat would definitely be noise and traffic," he said. "I think it's going to be a huge challenge, to be honest with you, to address the increase in noise in the morning time."


PATCH WANTS TO KNOW - Do you think Redwood City could benefit from a new private school such as the Cambridge Academy? What do you think of the proposed location at the Redwood Baptist Church? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.


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Merrily November 28, 2012 at 02:57 PM
I believe you made a mistake about the current traffic from Roosevelt School and 101?? - I think maybe you meant between the Roosevelt School site and the Kennedy Middle School site + Roosevelt Plaza traffic. and ALL of the current traffic going up McGarvey to 280!
Jennifer van der Kleut (Editor) November 28, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Merrily - one of the neighbors who lives near the church said neighborhood streets serve as a thoroughfare to 101.
Jack Hickey November 28, 2012 at 05:24 PM
I wish the Berg's well with the Cambridge Academy. Private schools offer parents a real choice. I would hope that half of their enrollment would come from current students of Roosevelt. With a little financial help, I'm sure that would happen. Property tax credits for education is an idea whose time has come. Education Performance Vouchers would also promote choice and help create other private solutions. http://www.pave2010.com/ Separation of school and state should be our goal. http://www.schoolandstate.org/home.htm
billyjames November 28, 2012 at 06:50 PM
imho all neighborhoods with schools in them should have posted and enforced speed limits of 15 mph.
Doug November 28, 2012 at 08:32 PM
A private "academy" literally one block from Roosevelt is ridiculous. Roosevelt is in the process of a major shift forward academically and the recent addition of 7th and 8th grades situates it better as a neighborhood school (rather than a feeder school). I feel terrible for those neighbors next to Redwood Baptist Church if this thing goes through...
Judi Mahoney November 29, 2012 at 07:57 AM
Good luck to the Bergs and the new school concept. As far as safety concerns go, how safe are kids at many of the public RCSD schools? Not very. Kennedy usually has pregnant middle schoolers by spring. How refreshing to have a quality private school that won't reflect the current moral decay of the bay area. And, it isn't uncommon to see Kennedy parents flip the bird in anger at yard duty staff as one commenter here well knows. "Classy" public school parents.
Mecala November 29, 2012 at 11:09 AM
Just because the school might be private does not necessarily mean it will be quality. I hesitate to jump to any conclusion such as that. Before making any judgement on the proposed Cambridge Academy, I would need to know a whole lot more about its philosophy, its goals, its criteria for enrollment etc.... An important question we should be asking is what type of education would our local children get from Cambridge Academy for the $11,000 to $12,000 tuition, and how would it benefit our community?
Merrily November 29, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Judi, Judi, Judi!! When are you going to get over your ancient perspective of Kennedy! Didn't you send your kids to public school? Watch where you point your fingers 'cuz when you point away, 3 fingers point back at YOU...."the "classy" public school parent"! Really come visit and see the changes - you will be shocked! Then you can stop bashing and work together as a productive community member! Thank you!
Eggbert November 29, 2012 at 08:15 PM
"Nicholas and Carol Berg say their vision is for Cambridge Academy to be "a small, family-run business whose focus will always be 'students first.'" Ah, such a relief. Their fiscal profit off what should be a shared public concern is secondary, then. And where profit is to be made, we must, as Mr. Kastop advises, "get over it" - "it" being any wider concerns of the commons.
Jeni November 29, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Judi's perspective isn't ancient, it's sadly accurate. It's easy for parents of bright, well-behaved children to view their child's school as wonderful and nurturing, when the remaining 80% of the students are getting into trouble, doing drugs, getting into fights, ditching school, not doing their homework, and simply not caring about their education. The parents of these kids don't know what it's like to have children who succeed in school and are a "pleasure to have in class." They only experience the struggle and disappointment. Kennedy is very polarizing--the students who are on honor roll and involved in student activities are having a great time while the rest of the population are low achievers. The two groups do not interact with each other. So, Merrily, while I'm happy for you that your child(ren) attends (or attended) Kennedy and had a great experience because they were excellent students with a great future ahead, you may be innocently blind to the severe academic and behavior issues of the overwhelming majority of the school's students. Again, just how the parents of trouble-maker kids don't know what it's like to be on the good side of the PTA and be positively involved in their school to improve it, the parents of high achievers or kids who are "good" don't interact with the "bad" kids who make the school a very undesirable learning community.
billyjames November 29, 2012 at 11:01 PM
@ Mike Kastop: If you were quoted correctly, i.e., "Yes, we have traffic, but we need to get over it and deal with it," I expect you have some good ideas on how to deal with our traffic challenges: downtown, in the neighborhoods and around schools. If you do, I'd love to hear them! Can we have a cup of coffee when your schedule permits? Regards, billy
Merrily November 30, 2012 at 05:33 AM
Well, Jeni, I am NOT a parent of a student at Kennedy! I actually have been teaching there for 20 years! I have seen tides of behavior come and go here, parents that are more involved and those that don't show for conferences of their own children, poor & not poor! I have also, experienced people who judge what it is like at my school, without actual first hand knowledge of what you speak! When were you there or when did your child(ren) go to Kennedy. Truly you too, should come for a visit. Kids are focused on learning. They are respectful. They are still middle school behavior, too. But a very large majority of our students on campus NOW are such good hearted kids that care-about themselves and OTHERS! Thank you!
Lila November 30, 2012 at 06:38 PM
The people on Roosevelt Ave. do not want a school with 180 kids in their backyard. The noise level alone would be terrible and it will decrease our privacy and property values. Having two children myself in a local private school we are not at capacity and the tuition is half of what Cambridge Academy is proposing. Please, please don't let this go through.
Jeni November 30, 2012 at 06:54 PM
I think that actually if a private school is opened up, it WILL be quality simply because they can turn down whichever students do not fit their mission and values, in addition to being able to ask any child who is a discipline problem to leave. Public schools must teach all children, as they have the right to an education. So if a kid is a pain and is always getting into trouble, a public school has no choice but to have to be forced to deal with the child. Roosevelt is a school whose API is an abysmal 787 and nearly 80% of the students who attend qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Statistics about parenting and homelife of those who have low income don't lie, although there are certainly exceptions....but students who attend a school with a low API and high rate of poverty tend to not do well and have parents who are not supportive, don't help them with homework, don't attend Back to School Night, and are sometimes too busy working two jobs to spend quality time with their child and invest in their education. Private school parents, on the other hand, for the most part are very invested in their child's education, help with homework, are responsive to their child's teacher, and provide a loving and supportive homelife. Perhaps a private school will be built so close to Roosevelt because Roosevelt is NOT meeting students' needs!
Jeni November 30, 2012 at 07:12 PM
I didn't realize that you are not a Kennedy parent but a teacher there; I was incorrect. I am in my late 20s, so I definitely don't have children who went to Kennedy! How about this--I think it's possible that since you're a teacher there and have been for 20 years you have loyalty and a sense of pride in your school, so it's easy for you to get defensive and angry when others have the nerve to insult your school. Secondly, do you think there's a chance that you happen to run tight ship and mean business when teaching at school and that's why the students are "focused" and "respectful"? I think that there's a good chance that your students behave and are quiet in your class, but you can't speak for all of the teachers. You only teach a certain percent of the students there. I'm glad you like teaching there, but you may be viewing your school with rose-colored glasses and not seeing Kennedy and its students the way that they really are. And by the way, you must be so proud of the boys from Kennedy who last year behaved inappropriately toward female students while on a field trip with a teacher who was supposed to be supervising: http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Middle-school-boys-admit-to-sex-attack-2353061.php (you say that Kennedy students are respectful? Hmmmm)
Julie W December 01, 2012 at 06:03 AM
From Jeni: And by the way, you must be so proud of the boys from Kennedy who last year behaved inappropriately toward female students while on a field trip with a teacher who was supposed to be supervising: http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Middle-school-boys-admit-to-sex-attack-2353061.php (you say that Kennedy students are respectful? Hmmmm) The field trip was actually a class from the Newcomers Academy which happens to be located at Kennedy right now and used to be at McKinley before that. It is for those students who have been in the country for less than a year. Not really fair to say the boys were from Kennedy. The Newcomers Academy could be located at any number of schools.
Morgan Richardson December 02, 2012 at 08:25 AM
Excellent observations from "Jeni." teacher Merrily pushes the whole scam of Gore's global warming that has been switched to climate change....wonder if she points out how much Gore makes on the scam many noted climatologists have disavowed....if Kennedy is so improved, how much of that is due to the NEW principal? And if that was a reason for improvement, why did Seder get recycled to another school rather than asked to leave?
Michelle T. December 03, 2012 at 04:12 AM
I am offended that Kennedy would be bashed in such a horrible way! The students at Kennedy are amazing kids! What goes on at Kennedy in not anybdifferent than what goes on at any other middle school in the county! We produce amazing, talented' smart' loving students who go on to lead successful lives! Shame on you! Kennedy ROCKS!
Judi Mahoney December 03, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Kennedy does not "rock." Any alternative to a RCSD school would be an improvement unless real change from the board concerning Bradford St. occurs. The school colors were changed, Michelle T, because of the gangs there.
Merrily December 04, 2012 at 06:07 AM
Really, and not with any rose-colored glasses on, Kennedy does not have that flavor of gangs or gang wannabes, as in the past! It is true, Jeni, I do have loyalty or really favoritism towards my school but I live in realism! It is, also true that I do run a tight ship! I have seen what you & Judi refer to and do not deny troubled times of the past. TRULY things have greatly changed!


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