Fri12192014

A long-term solution for schools’ conflict: Other Voices

I’m a parent of two Bullis Charter School students this year and will have a third starting in the fall. This is our seventh year being a part of the Los Altos School District community. My family is very happy with the choice we made regarding the education of our children. I’ve attended several meetings over the past few months regarding how to move forward as a community on the issue of a long-term solution for the charter school.

I’m very happy that I took the time to engage with the district board of trustees, charter school representatives and the rest of the district parent community (whether they are parents of children attending Bullis Charter School or other district schools). I’ve learned a lot about the concerns of my peers, the other district parents, whose children attend district schools.

The most common pleas I’ve heard are:

1. Don’t close another neighborhood elementary school.

2. Don’t bring a commuter school into our neighborhood.

3. Don’t break up a community that’s been together for seven years.

Through the discussion of these concerns, face to face with other parents, I can very clearly see why moving Bullis Charter School to a district elementary campus and reallocating the students to other elementary schools would be very disruptive on these three dimensions.

After reflecting on this for a while, I believe I have a solution that could create a long-term solution for a Bullis Charter School facility without being disruptive on these three important dimensions. Specifically:

1. Move Bullis Charter School from the Egan Junior High School campsite to the Blach Inter-

mediate School campus.

2. Consolidate district middle school attendance at the Egan campus, taking advantage of the campsite.

3. Extend an invitation to current Blach seventh-graders to attend Bullis Charter School for eighth grade.

I see a number of benefits:

1. Blach is a commuter school, as it draws from half of the Los Altos School District, so there’s no net detriment to the surrounding community, and Bullis Charter School’s current practice of staggered class starts may actually help traffic.

2. The Egan campsite is already set up with two parking/drop-off locations to help mitigate traffic congestion.

3. Blach seventh-graders could complete their middle school experience in the same facility they started in.

4. The district could realize efficiencies in merging the two middle school programs on one campus.

5. The lawsuits would go away.

6. Bullis Charter School could plan for reasonable growth within a stable and known capacity.

Granted, there are some downsides:

1. There would be a longer commute for middle school students from the southern and eastern parts of the district. (Note: That’s where we commute from to the charter school, and it’s not horrifying).

2. Egan would be a large school, but no larger than it already is, hosting both Egan and Bullis Charter School.

3. There would be disruption for the Blach teaching team during the transition year if the eighth-grade teachers stay behind.

4. There would be a very challenging human resources problem to solve when dealing with Blach/Egan redundancies.

The benefits far outweigh the challenges of this proposal. I understand time is short, but with a clear vision toward a long-term solution, we could make a very positive change with minimum disruption.

Rob Fagen is a Los Altos resident.

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