The private Enlight Academy has successfully vied for a conditional use permit from the city of Dublin to operate out of a portion of the former Nielsen Elementary School to educate up to 20 students from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Commissioners debated the proposal, reviewed a strategic presentation and heard public comments at its meeting last week. A motion to approve the permit was made by Commissioner Matthew Aini and adopted unanimously by the rest of the dais.
Mir Amir, a member of the Enlight Academy Board of Directors, appeared before the commission to talk about the Dublin project.
"Enlight Academy is a nonprofit private school and academic institution. The education system is a Montessori-based educational system, which is a very hands-on way of teaching kids using tools and other methods," Amir said.
"The student-teacher ratio is also very low. It is designed to foster independence," Amir added. "A number of us thought it would be a good type of education to bring to the children of the community."
The former Nielsen Elementary School site at 7500 Amarillo Road was permanently shut down by the Dublin Unified School District in 2008 in an effort to reserve funds.
Before its closure, the school served around 312 students. Since then, the site has had a variety of uses for the district, including storage and child care, according to city staff.
Commissioner Stephen Wright questioned possible future expansion from Enlight Academy.
"If these folks are hugely successful and they want to expand, our conditional use permit limits them to 20 students. What occurs if they want to add more students?" Wright asked during the meeting.
"They would have to amend the application and get that approved through another Planning Commission meeting," clarified Anne Hersch, the city's community development director.
Now with approval, Enlight Academy also plans to host an accompanying preschool and day care program that can accommodate up to 15 children.
According to the Planning Commission's staff report, the school will compose of three classrooms, one administrative office and an outdoor play area. In addition to the 20 students, the school will have one principal, two teachers and one administrative staff member.
"We look forward to bringing this benefit to the children that attend the school, and also bringing the parents in as part of the education process. That is something that is very important in our approach to this," Amir said.
"We hope to liven up a site that has been vacant for a long period of time, and add to the school system in the city of Dublin. Additionally, this will bring in revenue to DUSD from the rent and create several jobs," Amir added.
Enlight Academy had previously attempted to operate a school site out of Pleasanton in 2021 and nearly rented out a space. Amir confirmed that this project was incorporated by the Pleasanton school district but was never seen to completion.
The newly approved private school hopes to be fully operational for their 2023-24 school year beginning in September.