Sat08022014

News

Lawsuits may be headed district's way

Four groups interested in suing the Los Altos School District for offering Egan camp school to Bullis Charter School for the next academic year sought legal advice and held strategy meetings last week.

The question is not whether there will be a lawsuit against the district, said Mark Breier, who is leading the efforts, but "how many lawsuits, by whom, and on which basis." The interested groups, he said, are charter school applicants concerned about "the noncomparability of the site," Egan neighbors concerned about the portables on the campus, people who want to use the sports fields, and "any community member who objects to the environmental impact at Egan" - which includes traffic, noise and the site's appearance.

The Bullis Charter School board has distanced itself in public from Breier's efforts to sue the district. Breier, who spearheaded the charter school and served as its first board president, said by e-mail that he is not likely to be a plaintiff in such a suit himself.

"(No) one wants to sue a school district," he wrote. "But if a group wants to correct kid safety, ensure equal facility access, or enforce a contract with neighbors and community (e.g., 'temporary' portables at Egan), then legal steps may be appropriate."

Breier said he is most concerned with establishing "a townwide Los Altos Hills school." He prefers to see the charter school housed in the Hills, he said, but failing that, he would like the Hills to change school district affiliations.

"Current momentum, based on LASD unwillingness to run a town school, is towards the latter," he wrote.

At the last board meeting, board president Victor Reid said that the district wants to renovate Bullis and eventually reopen it as a public school.

Breier commented on Reid's statement in an e-mail to the Town Crier: "(Los Altos Hills) folks have reasoned skepticism. Show us the money. Show us the town solution where everyone in LAH can attend (Palo Alto Unified School District) and LASD. And show us the guarantee that the school will not be closed in 5-7 years!"

Those pesky portables

Although Bullis Charter School supporters and some Egan neighbors contend that school officials promised to remove the portables from the campus at the end of their third year of use, trustees and Superintendent Marge Gratiot have said repeatedly that the district never made such a promise. The charter school group and Breier have recently tried to bolster their argument against housing the charter school at Egan by asserting that the lack of an initial environmental impact report on the effect of putting portables on the site puts the district in violation of state law.

District officials maintain that the mitigated negative declaration for the site, which they say is good for one more year, satisfies the need for an environmental impact study. They also believe they have established that Egan camp school meets Proposition 39 requirements for "reasonable equivalency."

Bullis Charter School must submit its second-year request for facilities to the district in October. Gratiot said that a second mitigated negative declaration, rather than an environmental impact report, will be conducted if the charter school is housed at Egan in its second year.

The superintendent said last week that she and Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent for business services, are working on a new layout for the camp school. They plan to use 10-12 portable classrooms around the perimeter of the campus to free up as much of the sports fields as possible. She said that the fields will be restored when funds can be found for the project.

At the Bullis site

If the school board and the Los Altos Hills City Council approve an agreement reached by their subcommittees last week, the town of Los Altos Hills will pay the district $96,000 for a one-year lease on an office and the multipurpose room at Bullis-Purissima School. The town may put another building on the site for its use during that period, as well. The space will serve as offices for town staff while the new town hall is under construction.

Everyone with an interest in Bullis has been at pains to say that the town's use of the site will not preclude its use for other purposes. The school district has said that space there could be rented, possibly to one or more preschools, for as much as $350,000 per year, and the town and the charter group have said that they could operate at the site without getting in each other's way.

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