The Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School filed separate lawsuits last week that addressed the district’s plans to purchase a school site outside the district.
The district board of trustees last month directed staff to submit a bid on the Raynor Activity Center in Sunnyvale, eyeing the site as a possible location for the charter school.
The district’s lawsuit is a Complaint for Declaratory Relief that seeks the court’s interpretation of whether Proposition 39 – state law that requires school districts to provide “reasonably equivalent” facilities for charter schools – allows the district to offer Bullis Charter School a site outside district boundaries.
The suit requests that the court declare that its purchase of the Raynor Activity Center, if approved, is legal. It further asks the court to declare that the district may meet its facilities obligation by purchasing a site located outside district boundaries.
The district’s legal team requested resolution of the questions before the district commits additional funding and resources to purchase and improve the Raynor site for the charter school. The district placed a $50,000 deposit with its bid, refundable if the bid is not accepted. The announcement on whether the bid is accepted is expected this month.
“Given the significant investment that the district is contemplating to acquire and improve the Raynor site, the responsible and prudent course of action is to ask the court to give its legal interpretation of whether the law allows the district to offer Bullis Charter School the Raynor site before any acquisition occurs,” said district board President Doug Smith. “The public interest is served by obtaining a swift response to this question.”
Smith added that the district’s request for declaratory relief is a pre-emptive attempt to avoid additional lawsuits.
“By seeking clarification ahead of taking action, we are trying to ensure that what we do complies with the law before the action is taken,” he said.
The charter school
Bullis Charter School’s lawsuit, a Petition for Writ of Mandate, asks the court to compel the district to cease pursuing the Raynor site.
The legal filing claims that the state’s attorney general has determined that Proposition 39 should be strictly construed to limit district property acquisition to sites “immediately adjacent” to existing district schools. The Raynor site, located approximately 3 miles from district boundaries, is a former Santa Clara Unified School District school. The charter school labels its distance as “two school districts away.”
The suit also argues that California law prevents the district from purchasing property outside its boundaries. It requests that the court direct the district to “set aside” its action authorizing a bid on the Raynor property and comply with its duties under state law governing the purchase of “real property by public school districts.”
“Los Altos School District’s efforts to acquire a property outside its boundaries is a waste of taxpayer dollars, and is intended to further harass Bullis Charter School and its families,” said charter school board Chairman Ken Moore. “While we do not wish to engage in litigation over this issue, (the district) has forced us to do so. We are hopeful that the city of Sunnyvale will indicate that it has no intention of transferring the property to the Los Altos School District and put this matter to rest quickly.”
There is no date scheduled for the rulings from the court.