- Published on Tuesday, 18 February 2003 19:56
- Written by Sara Ballenger - Town Crier Staff Writer
The gut-wrenching decision to close Bullis-Purissima School has been made. But more hard work lies ahead.
The Los Altos School District Board of Trustees unanimously decided Feb. 10 to close the elementary school in Los Altos Hills, based on financial and demographic criteria. The current 341 students at Bullis will be reassigned, if families choose, to Covington School, starting in the 2003-04 school year.
Even though students will not physically move for several months, the district has a short time line to get all of the implementation issues for such a move in place.
Kindergarten registration begins March 11, and many new parents in the district will be wondering where to sign their child up for kindergarten. Administrator assignments need to be in place, and credentialed staff would need layoff notices by March 15. Teachers need to receive their assignments for the next school year by April 11. The board is legally required to adopt its budget for the 2003-04 school year by June 16.
The board will consider the following issues for the implementation of the Bullis closure:
With Bullis closing, the district will redraw its attendance boundaries to equalize the number of students at each school. The school board expects to finalize boundary decisions at its March 3 board meeting. The district hopes to choose a scenario that results in student population numbers at each school that work well with grade progressions. The current projection includes the following boundary changes.
Under this scenario, according to the district, 2,270 students would be within a mile of their school. Of those students, 491 would cross major streets -- El Camino Real, San Antonio Road, Foothill Expressway, El Monte Avenue, Springer Road and Magdalena Avenue. Among a total of 2,911 students, 2,599 would remain with their original student body and 623 would change sites. The cost of portables to house all the students would be $434,000 at $7,000 per portable per year. There would also be $7,000 spent on classrooms for special education. There would be no additional teachers needed. The district estimates the total annual cost of this scenario at $441,000.
Tied into the boundary issue is that of enrollment and the assignment of students. Many families expressed concern to the board that students would be uprooted from their school, because with the boundary changes they would no longer be in the same attendance area.
The "Gilmore-Hollingsworth" neighborhood in the Almond attendance area signed a petition and presented it to the board at the Feb. 10 meeting, asking board members to take into account that the new attendance boundaries being considered by the board sometimes assign students to a school farther than the one they attend currently. This neighborhood is "grandfathered" into the Almond attendance area, but under the new boundaries it would be assigned to Springer.
Board member Victor M. Reid III offered a solution. "Open enrollment has been in this district forever," he said. "These boundaries don't mean that every child within a particular boundary must go to that school. There are limits, but we need to look at open enrollment as the key to flexibility of any boundary, over time."
Use of the Bullis School site
In deciding what to do with the Bullis School site -- five acres on Fremont Road, Los Altos Hills -- the district must go through a process to declare a school a surplus property, said Randy Kenyon, associate superintendent of business services. The process is regulated by the state education code.
"The board appoints an advisory committee to look at the school site and to make a recommendation to the board about what to do with the site," Kenyon said. "If you dispose of a site by selling or leasing, there is a priority listing of who has first crack at the site. Generally, special education agencies, open space districts, parks and other public agencies have priority right before we can go out and sell or lease to the highest bidder. The board has indicated no interest in selling the property."
Some Bullis parents and Los Altos Hills community members are interested in using the Bullis site to house a charter school. Look for a more in-depth story on the Bullis charter school proposal in the schools section of this issue.
The staff, special education advisory committee and PTA will evaluate the number of classrooms needed at each school, including special education classrooms; making decisions about existing and needed playground equipment; and giving input about the revision of the renovation and camp school time lines as needed.
The staff and board will also decide on teaching staff reassignments, by the April 11 deadline, and determining the need for layoffs.
Dave McNulty, Bullis principal, has been selected as the new principal of Covington School. McNulty said all teachers and staff will move to the Covington site, except two temporary teachers. The temporary teachers may be hired back by the end of the school year, depending on the state budget and district finances, he added.
Community issues that will be resolved throughout the moving process are the communication of the board's decision, staff visits, parent tours, PTA organization and site councils. Childcare facilities will be provided at each school site, according to the district.
Safety and traffic issues
Parents and community members have voiced numerous complaints and concerns regarding safety and traffic issues involved in moving students to another campus. The board and the district hope to identify safe routes to school; identify crossing guard needs; conduct a traffic study in order to make a recommendation on implementation; and consider providing a shuttle bus for students crossing the El Monte Avenue-Foothill Expressway intersection. The El Monte-Foothill intersection is the only Class F intersection in the district.
McNulty said he hopes the Bullis community can be moved into the Covington School site by July, and get focused once again on the education of the students.
"My hope is that when this is all said and done, all of Bullis moves to Covington and we can work with the other new students and become a new grade school," McNulty said. "I hope we can all put all of this behind us."
- Almond School: Some students would go to Springer and Covington, giving Almond a projection of 496 students.
- Springer School: Some students would go to Covington, giving Springer a projection of 440 students.
- Loyola School: Attendance boundaries would stay the same, with a projection of 519 students.
- Bullis School: All students would be invited to attend Covington.
- Covington School: With students from Almond, Springer and Bullis, Covington would have a projection of 512 students.
- Oak Avenue School: Attendance boundaries would stay the same, with a projection of 434 students.