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No sale, district tells Hills

Bullis-Purissima School won't change hands, the Los Altos School District told the Los Altos Hills City Council last week. By direction from the school board, Superintendent Marge Gratiot wrote to Mayor Mike O'Malley that the Bullis site "has not been for sale, and is not for sale now."

School district trustees discussed the council's offer in closed session before the regular board meeting June 6. Vice President Margot Harrigan, presiding in Jay Thomas' absence, told the small audience of PTA presidents and regulars, "You should know this board is not now nor has ever been interested in selling that site."

The council offered to buy the nearly 10-acre site on Fremont Road for "fair market value," the rate required by state education code. State law instructs districts to give preference to local governments when selling school sites. Last week's offer did not specify an amount, but the council is cooperating with Bullis Charter School to make the purchase, for which BCS supporters have raised $5 million. The council's offer is open until June 24.

Building a school can cost $5 million to $10 million, exclusive of the site, according to Randall Kenyon, the district's assistant superintendent for business services. Local property experts say a quarter-acre residential site in a desirable Los Altos neighborhood can sell for $1 million, and building sites in Los Altos Hills often sell for $2 million an acre.

Gratiot said late last week that the town could invoke its Naylor Act rights to one-fourth of the open field area at one-third of its market value if the district declared the site surplus and put it on the market. The town would have to use the field area for recreational purposes.

"The rest could be … whatever anybody would pay for it. If the city offers to pay full market rate for the whole area, then the Naylor (Act) wouldn't apply," she said.

If the district does decide to sell, it would first have to offer the site at market rate, minus the Naylor Act portion of the open field, to the public agencies stipulated in education code before selling it to a developer or private entity.

Although Bullis has been described as "surplus property" in all but one newspaper article and most public discussions since the 7-11 Committee recommended in June 2003 that the district declare it so, trustees and staff made a point last Monday of clarifying the school's status. Both Gratiot and trustee Duane Roberts pointed out that the board did not take action to approve the committee's recommendations but merely accepted its report in the Sept. 8, 2003, board meeting. Roberts was president of the board then.

"The board never took action on the 7-11 recommendation, so (Bullis) was never surplus property," Roberts said last Monday.

He later explained, "We accepted the report of the 7-11 Committee; we did not accept the recommendations, because we wanted to maintain the site … so that we could use the facility when necessary. That's why all the leases at Bullis are signed as joint use."

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