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June 10, 2009 > New preschool coming to Newark

New preschool coming to Newark

By Meenu Gupta

Ruwangi Sumanasekera and Rajitha Sumanasekera applied to establish a Little Montessori preschool for up to 53 children at 37815 Birch St.

In 1986, the City Council approved a conditional use permit to establish a Montessori private children's school at this site for up to 35 children. The use permit was amended in 1989 to increase the number of children to 53. In 2005 the use permit was revoked at the request of the property owners who had decided to convert the building back to a residence. That conversion never occurred and the building has remained vacant.

The Little Flowers preschool would operate from 7 a.m. to 6.15 p.m., Monday through Friday. Outdoor activities would last from 9.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. and from 2.30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Having two outdoor play times would split the children into two groups and reduce the sound of all children playing outdoors simultaneously.

Much of the large front yard area is paved and, as before, will continue to serve as a student drop-off/pick-up area and off-street parking. The building will be improved by re-landscaping, re-roofing and re-painting. A fenced area will accommodate the outdoor play area at the rear of the building.

When the Council met on May 28, neighbors raised concerns about the speed of drivers on Birch St and the potential for accidents involving school children. They were also concerned about traffic noise and traffic flow.

To ensure traffic associated with the school will not be a hazard, the developer must prepare a complete signing and striping plan for the City Engineer's approval. The developer will enforce policies so that children are escorted by parents and guardians from nearby homes or vehicles to the school. Preliminary speed survey data indicates there is not a demonstrated speeding problem. "Staff has no records of complaints, so far," said City Planner Richard Fujikawa. A six-month review of the project will also be undertaken by the Planning Commission and City Council.

The motion was unanimously approved (5-0 vote). "You've a proven record. I hope you're successful and a good neighbor. It's terribly important that you're sensitive to their issues," said Council Member Alberto Huezo.

According to the terms of the conditional use permit, if a complaint is received about noise, traffic, on-site circulation or parking, an analysis will be prepared at the Development Director's discretion and paid for by the developer. The developer must remedy these problems to avoid revocation of the permit and the cessation of activities within 60 days of formal notification. City Council also has the right to modify conditions of approval after the six-month review. The developer will bear the cost of the review. "We hope these conditions will not be triggered and the applicants will be good neighbors as they're investing a lot of money in the project," said Mayor David Smith.

"Our goal is to complete construction by end of September and open by mid-October. We serve children aged 18 months to 6 years (school age)," said Mr. Sumanasekera.

The applicants have two other schools, Little Flowers Montessori at Ardenwood Blvd, Fremont, with 217 children capacity and Little Flowers Learning Center, opening June 15 at Jarvis Ave, Newark.

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