Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District forged a five-year peace treaty last week, the first step in resolving their decade-long facilities battle.
Culminating in what was described as a series of eight-hour mediation sessions, subcommittees representing the charter school and district boards hammered out the details of the agreement, which includes dropping all facilities litigation.
The agreement is a nonbinding contract between the district and the charter school. Both boards are seeking input on the cease-fire from the community before July 28, when each of them will vote whether to approve the compromise.
“The fact that we have gotten to this point is a huge milestone,” said district Trustee Doug Smith. “I’m anxious to hear the community’s feedback on this, and I’m hopeful we can ratify this by the end of July.”
District board President Tammy Logan said she felt “a great sense of relief.”
John Phelps, recently appointed charter school board chairman, said he looks forward to hearing from the community as well.
“I believe this agreement is in the best interest of all parties, and it provides us the opportunity to focus on what is important – all public school students in the community,” Phelps said.
Charter school facilities
The agreement allows Bullis Charter School to occupy exclusive spaces at Egan Junior High and Blach Intermediate schools for the next five years – without undergoing the time-intensive annual facilities request and allocation process.
The charter school’s footprint at Egan would remain similar, but the agreement adds substantial space to the charter school’s Blach facilities over time.
For the 2014-2015 school year, the charter school’s space at Blach would not change substantially from the current allocation – in part because construction has already begun. But beginning in 2015-2016, district officials said they would not renew their lease with Stepping Stones Preschool, located on the Blach campus, and assign that space to the charter school.
Each year, the district would incrementally add facilities for the charter school on the Egan and Blach campuses, completing its allocation of classrooms and nonteaching space by the 2016-2017 school year.
The agreement still calls for shared physical education space on the Blach campus, with the charter school gaining access to a quarter of the physical education facilities at Blach. The principals of both schools would negotiate a schedule for shared use of facilities.
Bullis would gain exclusive use of play areas on the Blach campus next year, including the grassy area in front of the track along Covington Road, and an additional paved space that currently houses the school’s dumpsters. Beginning in 2015-2016, the district would add 9,500 square feet of play space for the charter school once the Stepping Stones lease expires. At that time, the charter school could add a play structure to the space at its own expense.
The proposal outlines parameters that would be included in a mutually crafted facilities use agreement, valid through the 2018-2019 school year, and settles on an enrollment projection for the charter school, capping it at 900 students, which would equal approximately 15.3 percent of the school district’s total enrollment.
Next year, the Egan campus would house no more than 626 Bullis Charter School students and the Blach campus no more than 266 students on a daily basis. Up to once a month for special activities, the Blach campus is allowed 300 students and the Egan campus 711 students.
The daily-use scenario at Blach increases to 500 beginning in the 2015-2016 school year, with 750 allowed at Egan.
The agreement aims to phase out the former Bullis-Purissima Elementary School attendance area enrollment preference by reducing the incoming kindergarten preference by 10 percent each year – pending approval from the Santa Clara County Board of Education, Bullis’ chartering agency.
To communicate the charter school’s effort to meet the educational needs of its students, its website will add promotional materials that provide further information on how the school serves various student groups with unique needs, including special-education students and English Language Learners.
The charter school would also provide on-site access to an occupational therapist, speech therapist, psychologist and teacher with a special-education credential.
The agreement requires that both parties drop all litigation and calls for mediation and arbitration in a timely manner if problems arise. Lawsuits over facilities would be banned until after the agreement expires.
The agreement includes a provision that the charter school must “cooperate” with the district in its efforts to place a bond measure on the November ballot – including working together to draft and finalize the ballot language.
At the end of the agreement’s fourth year, the parties would collaborate to craft a succeeding agreement and determine “in good faith” whether they can agree on a specified longer-term solution for charter school facilities.
The terms of the agreement are available on the district’s website at losaltos.k12.ca.us and the charter school’s website at bullischarterschool.com.
After gathering feedback from residents, the boards are scheduled to vote on the agreement at their respective board meetings 7 p.m. July 28.