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Future of Bloomington elementary school depends on approval of warehouse project

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Jonathan Linden
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91.9 KVCR
Exterior photo of Zimmerman Elementary School in Bloomington, California.

Another large warehouse complex is slated for the Inland Empire. This time, the proposed project is next door to an elementary school in the small community of Bloomington.

Natalie Santos grew up in Bloomington and lives less than a mile from Zimmerman Elementary School, which has a special place in her heart. "We love that school so much, like my siblings; all of us went there as kids," Santos said.

As the mom of a three-year-old, she looked forward to sending her son there too. But now, the future of Zimmerman Elementary is up in the air. “It sucks because I really wanted to put my son into that school," Santos said. "My old kindergarten teacher is still there.”

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Jonathan Linden
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91.9 KVCR
A sign outside a Bloomington home that reads, "#BloomingtonIsNotForSale #BloomingtonNoSeVende."

The future of the school is up in the air because a large warehouse complex may be moving in next door. It’s called the Bloomington Business Park. It would be nearly 2.8 million square feet in size; that's about 45 football fields. County supervisors still need to approve the plans.

But, the school district says if the supervisors vote “yes” on the Bloomington Business Park, the school will need to move for safety reasons. "It's like an insurance policy," said Colton Joint Unified School District communications director Katie Orloff.

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County of San Bernardino
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A map of the proposed Bloomington Business Park, which would consist of four warehouses that would altogether be nearly 2.8 million square feet in size. Zimmerman Elementary is labeled on the map.

Orloff says some of the district’s safety concerns are air pollution from trucks going in and out of the warehouses, plus the noise. “We don't have any control over whether or not this development is approved by the county board of supervisors," Orloff said. "So the best thing we can do for our students and staff is to figure out how we can provide them with a safer environment if it does get approved.”

So after months of negotiations, the district settled on a deal with the developer. In exchange for the school property, the district would receive a small .26 acre property in Colton, as well as $44.5 million. The district says they'll use those funds to build a brand new school about a three-minute drive away.

The district is proposing to move the school to an empty 28-acre lot that the district already owns off Larch Avenue and Santa Ana Avenue. Orloff says the new school would have the latest technology. “It's going to have better safety measures," Orloff said. "It's going to have the most up-to-date filtration and noise reduction features."

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Colton Joint Unified School District
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A concept design of where the Colton Joint Unified School District is proposing to move Zimmerman Elementary. The proposed new location would be off Larch Avenue and Santa Ana Avenue in Bloomington.

Orloff says the school district is happy with the plan, but some parents are angry with the school district. They argue that the district shouldn't have made the deal with the developer.

Many Bloomington residents are also just tired of warehouses popping up left and right in their community. That includes 20-year-old Helen Castillejos. She spoke up during a recent Bloomington Municipal Advisory Council meeting. “It's really upsetting to see... walking out of your house and just being able to see the warehouse view everywhere," Castillejos said. "Before, it was like such a beautiful equestrian view, and now it's not like that anymore.”

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Jonathan Linden
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91.9 KVCR
A photo of the 28-acre lot where the Colton Joint Unified School District is proposing to move Zimmerman Elementary. The district already owns the property, which is about a 3-minute drive away from the elementary school's current location.

Bloomington is a small, rural community that's predominantly Latino. The small town feeling is what encouraged Natalie Santos, the mom of the three-year-old, to raise her family here. "We're all a big family, all of us know each other. We have parties... we have ranches. I have chickens in (my backyard)," Santos said.

With the growing number of warehouses, though, and the possible relocation of Zimmerman elementary, Santos says it's gotten to the point where she may not stay in Bloomington. "Maybe we have to look into moving somewhere else because this was our small little town that we love so much."

The developer of the proposed Blooming Business Park, Howard Industrial Partners, did not return KVCR'S request for comment. According to data from the real estate website Commercial Cafe, at least six warehouses totaling over 3.5 million square feet have opened around the Bloomington area in the last four years.

Corrected: July 26, 2022 at 2:46 PM PDT
The article originally stated that six warehouses totaling over 3.5 million square feet have opened in Bloomington in the last four years. That sentence has been corrected to say the Bloomington area. Two of the warehouses used for that statics are technically located in neighboring Rialto but used to be a part of unincorporated Bloomington in San Bernardino County.
Jonathan Linden is a reporter at 91.9 KVCR in San Bernardino, California. He joined KVCR in July 2021 and had previously interned for the station in the Spring of 2019. Outside of KVCR, Jonathan also interned for KALW in San Francisco, KFI in Burbank, and Radio HCJB in Quito, Ecuador.