More students can expect to win in Los Altos’ charter school admissions lottery next year. Bullis Charter School leaders plan to expand its lower grades significantly.
At their Oct. 8 board meeting, charter school board members discussed adding one to two additional kindergarten classes next year and one additional class in grades 1-3. They must decide by Nov. 1 how much they expect their school to grow, as they must request classrooms and other facility space from the Los Altos School District by that date.
Janet Medlin, charter school board member, said examining how the charter school could serve the larger community formed the strategic aim driving the expansion plans. She and board member John Phelps reported that they met with charter school parents at a series of meetings to hear concerns about future growth. Fear that the school district would not provide facilities to allow for an expanding student body appeared to be a primary concern, as did fear that the community would vilify expansion plans and wistfulness for the intimacy of a small school. The charter school has already grown from 187 students at its founding in 2004 to 515 this year.
“This isn’t a school of choice, it’s a school of chance, because there’s so many people who want to get in. We’ve grown too slowly,” board president Ken Moore said. In some grades, nine students apply for every one open seat at the school.
In addition to admitting more children from the wait list, including siblings of current students, expanding the school would provide students with a broader repertoire of resources such as extracurricular activities, board member Anne Marie Gallagher said.
Growth discussion focused on expanding the program currently serving primarily Los Altos School District students. But board members also explored approaching the Mountain View-Whisman School District with the tentative idea of collaborating on a second charter school.
Within their current school, they described an ultimate goal of five kindergarten, first-, second- and third-grade classes and four classes each for grades 4-8. That would ultimately bring the student body to just over 900 students, but would involve several years of incrementally adding additional classes across the grades. The board agreed to finalize its plans for how many classes to add next year by Oct. 29.
Bullis Charter School board members appeared mindful of past critiques that the audience couldn’t hear deliberations during public meetings. Throughout the meeting – which was not amplified and occurred in one of the charter school’s classrooms – when conversation dropped to inaudible levels, members prompted each other to speak up. Los Altos School District board trustee Doug Smith brought microphones and audio recording equipment to the meeting and attempted to place them in front of the Bullis board members. After an acerbic response from several members of the board, he moved the mics into the audience.