Proposed K-8 raises city objections

Auburn officials see conflict with school, airport
By: Eyragon Eidam, Staff Writer
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Until recently, a proposed charter school was raising City Council members’ concerns about the future of the Auburn Municipal Airport.

The John Adams Academy, a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade charter school, was making headway in its plans to take up residence in the Parkside Church on Richardson Drive, but city officials had concerns that its placement could limit the future potential of the airport.

Located in unincorporated North Auburn, the Parkside Church facility would have offered a physical location to the proposed school, but the project was stalled due to state charter regulations.

Dean Forman, founder of the academy, said he had hoped the school would fill a public education gap within the community, but was forced to hold plans until legal experts sorted through California charter law.

“Charter schools fill a vacancy, or gap, that isn’t being filled by public schools,” Forman said.

The academy founder said he hopes another school option would draw new, younger families into an aging demographic and bring new revenue for both the city and county.

Forman said he hopes to move school plans forward soon.  

Councilman Keith Nesbitt said he was not opposed to the addition of a charter school on county land, but said he was concerned the placement of the school would worsen ongoing incremental encroachment.

According to county officials, the law prohibits elementary schools from being built within a certain radius  of airport operations. Parkside Church sits roughly 5,500 feet from the west end of the tarmac.

“In some research, we found that the use permit that was allowed by the county … does not extend to that K-8 school,” Nesbitt said at a City Council meeting Monday evening.

Nesbitt said the county could potentially override current regulations, making any future expansion on the part of the airport difficult or impossible.

“We do need to protect that over-fly zone, and that one of the reasons we are trying to move quickly in revising our airport master plan to include the extended runway,” Nesbitt said. “We do have to protect that airport from incremental encroachment. It is happening little by little over the last several years and will continue in the future if we don’t protect it.”

Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes said concerns over potential impediments to the airport’s future are justified because of the revenue it brings, but he said the county would be making a counterproductive move to stall its growth.

“It would not be in Placer County’s interest to do anything to set that back,” Holmes said.

Holmes said no permits are pending through the California Department of Education according to his “high-ranking” contact within the department.

David Melko, senior transportation planner for Placer County Transportation Planning Agency, said a school in the proposed location would violate current city and county code.

No permits had been requested on the part of the elementary school with the county or the state, but plans to pursue the location in the coming year will likely bring more discussion.

For now, city officials are working to solidify an updated master plan to avoid any encroachments that could threaten future airport expansion.