January may have heralded a new year, but the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School still face the same old facilities problems.
The two parties undergo the facilities allocation process every year, a back-and-forth negotiation that begins in November and culminates in April with a final offer. Under state Proposition 39, the school district is required to provide facilities for the charter school’s in-district students.
Bullis Charter School officials recently reaffirmed their projected enrollment of 678 in-district students for the 2014-2015 school year. In December, the school district countered the charter school’s projection, estimating that 73 fewer in-district students would attend the charter school next year.
“It is unfortunate that (the district), with yet another under-projection of Bullis Charter School students, apparently plans to continue its annual pattern of providing facilities insufficient to accommodate (charter school) students as they would be accommodated if they attended a (district-run) school,” stated the charter school’s response to the district’s counter projection. “We respectfully ask you to reconsider.”
The charter school’s response pointed out that district facilities for the current year did not account for 34 in-district K-5 students. The district’s counter estimate indicated that the charter school’s projection exceeded its current enrollment by 32 students. The district requested a number of data points regarding enrollees and registrants from the charter school to confirm its enrollment projection.
Bullis Charter School parents circulated an informal survey of current sixth-grade parents who plan to enroll their students in seventh grade at the charter school next year. The survey recorded that approximately 60 sixth-grade students would return next year.
The district estimated that number at 34 students, and the charter school projected 66, the number of sixth-graders currently attending the charter school. The district backed its claim, citing historically over-projected data for sixth grade, when many students enter or return to district schools or the private school population.
Randy Kenyon, district assistant superintendent for business services, requested that district trustees clarify some points at their Jan. 13 meeting to enable him to draft a preliminary option for Monday’s board meeting.
Despite the results from the Bullis Charter School parent survey, the trustees continued to use their projected counter enrollment.
“The survey is interesting, but it does not rise to the standard of scientific data,” said Trustee Doug Smith.
He added that the district’s projections are historically more accurate and that its count is supported by solid analysis.
“When we came back with our (counter), we asked for specific data, but all we received was a rant,” said Tammy Logan, district board president.
Kenyon also asked for instruction on how to design the offer, including whether he should assume that the charter school’s K-4 students would attend the site on the Egan Junior High School campus and fifth- through eighth-graders would attend the Blach Intermediate School site – or whether K-5 students would attend Egan and 6-8 attend Blach.
The trustees agreed that the preferred split would be K-4 and 5-8, which would likely require tweaks to the shared space and play area at Blach. The shared space at Blach must be addressed, trustees said, because they don’t want the current conflicts repeated next year. District trustees did not back away from the grade restrictions currently imposed on the Blach campus.
“I’m not uncomfortable with flexible use of our spaces as long as there is a conceptual way of how to operate, but it is contingent on having a collaborative relationship,” said Trustee Mark Goines. “I don’t think we can get there while in litigation.”
To view a copy of the charter school’s letter, visit losaltosonline.com.