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BCS projects 127 additional students next year

Bullis Charter School submitted its 2013-2014 enrollment projections to the Los Altos School District last week, outlining plans to expand from 517 students to 644.

The jump in enrollment is attributable in part to the addition of kindergarten, first-, second- and third-grade classes, an attempt to serve greater numbers of in-district students who have been wait-listed in the past.

Of the 644 students projected to attend the charter school next year, 615 are estimated to be in-district students.

The enrollment projection is the first step in resolving the 2013-2014 Proposition 39 facilities offer, which requires that the Los Altos School District provide reasonably equivalent facilities for Bullis Charter School’s in-district students. Members of the charter school’s board of directors assured the public that the added classes would accommodate in-district students.

The charter school board based its in-district projections on waitlist data. Last year, 189 children – 89 of them from the district – were wait-listed for kindergarten. In first and second grades, 181 children – 103 in-district – were placed on the waitlist.

The board’s report included affirmative statements from families who planned to enroll their children in the charter school for the 2013-2014 school year if given the opportunity. The board listed 101 of those students, by their neighborhood district school and grade, showing 29 first-graders, 23 second-graders and 28 third-graders of “meaningfully interested” in-district families.

In addition to the new K-3 classes, the charter school plans to add sixth- and eighth-grade classes as a part of their growth model.

The total overall projected growth for the school in 2013-2014 is 127 students, or 24.5 percent.

Many community members have questioned whether expansion of more than 25 percent is allowable under education code. Charter school board member Janet Medlin said the 25 percent figure is “unsupported,” and that education code states that charter schools “shall admit all pupils who wish to attend” and “the chartering authority shall make reasonable efforts to accommodate growth.”

“BCS seeks to serve all in-district students who wish to attend BCS,” she said. “Our community deserves ‘choice, not chance,’ and as long as there continues to be a lottery for in-district students because demand remains higher than supply, then chance is the result. Those who believe BCS is growing too fast or too big do not speak for the numerous community members who continue to register with BCS and pray for openings or pray to have their number drawn at the lottery.”

The charter school’s initial enrollment projection for this school year was 493 in-district students. The number of in-district enrolled this year is 475, according to court documents

The district sent a letter to the charter school last week requesting more specific information, including the names and addresses of charter school students. The charter school’s enrollment report states that “the statutes and regulations do not require charter schools to submit this information with a request for facilities.”

District officials have grappled with the authenticity of the charter school’s “in-district” numbers, because the information in the facilities request does not include addresses to verify its claims. Currently, the charter school’s chartering authority – the Santa Clara County Office of Education – certifies the names and addresses of students.

The community is scheduled to offer feedback on this year’s district-charter school facilities process at a Monday meeting, after the Town Crier’s press deadline.

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