Thu12182014

News

LASD, BCS parents collaborate in small groups


Photo By: Traci Newell/Town Crier
Photo Traci Newell/Town Crier

A parent, left, explains her point of view during a small-group meeting evaluating options for housing Bullis Charter School students next year.

Nearly 150 community members gathered at Covington School last week to discuss the pros and cons of five options proposed to house Bullis Charter School for the next school year.

The Los Altos School District is responsible for providing the charter school with equivalent facilities for its in-district students. The charter school has projected a greater increase in enrollment next year than in the past, which would require additional facilities.

In the second of the district’s public meetings on the charter school’s facility needs, representatives from district schools and the charter school split into five small groups, with each group evaluating one of five proposed alternatives. Participants could select which small group to attend.

Evaluating the scenarios

The five scenarios offered for providing facilities for charter school students include: (1) splitting charter school students between Egan Junior High and Blach Intermediate schools; (2) identifying a 10th site either inside or outside the district; (3) placing the charter school on the Covington campus and relocating Covington students; (4) placing the charter school on the Santa Rita campus and relocating Santa Rita students to the current Egan camp site; and (5) dividing charter school students among three district campuses.

Volunteer mediators from Project Sentinel facilitated the small-group discussions and reported the groups’ conclusions at the end of the evening. The alternatives reviewed were graded low, medium or high desirability.

The report from the group reviewing scenario 1, the Egan/Blach, rated the proposal from medium to high desirability.

“The feeling is the administrators on both sides need to come to the table and provide give and take,” the group mediator said. “The facilities’ issue requires stability and a long-term solution. They want the board to pick the right solution, not the most popular solution.”

Scenario 2, find a 10th school site, proved the most popular, reporting a high level of consensus. Of the group’s 36 participants, 32 agreed that an additional site would be highly desirable, two rated it as medium desirability and one ranked it as low desirability.

“It is urgent that there be a development parallel of short- and long-term plans,” said the mediator of the scenario 2 group. “They need to feed into each other through mutual buy-in with compromise from both boards. We need to build on what exists now.”

The discussion group that addressed scenario 3, placing the charter school at Covington and dispersing the Covington students to different campuses, included many parents from both sides of the issue. The mediator noted that some parents said this was their first opportunity to be in a room with parents on the other side of the charter school-district school.

Results of the Covington proposal were mixed, with 10 highly favoring the option, four expressing medium desirability and 16 ranking it as low desirability.

The mediator of the scenario 3 group said there wasn’t one exclusive conclusion at the end of the meeting, but many parents said they felt the 10th-site option was most viable. Group members agreed that the charter school deserves its own campus, and no other school should have to close because of the facilities problem.

“Input indicated that parents moved here for a neighborhood school,” the mediator said. “They don’t want that taken away.”

Scenario 4, the swap between Santa Rita and Bullis Charter School students drew mixed results as well, with most parents opposed to that solution. Six parents rated the option as highly desirable, four ranked it medium and 14 low.

“The (scenario 4) group wanted to emphasize three points,” the mediator said. “Current Bullis Charter School facilities are inadequate for students, we need a 10th site in the long term and the charter school and the district need to collaborate and be more like-minded.”

The final group, scenario 5, evaluated placing charter school students at three campuses. Nineteen parents voted the option as low desirability and two ranked it medium. No one selected it as highly desirable.

“Their feeling was that this option should not be pursued, because two elementary schools cannot work on one campus,” the group’s mediator said. “It is not a long-term solution.”

The district plans to post a more detailed account of each small group’s opinions on its website.

The district must submit a preliminary offer to the charter school outlining its 2013-2014 facilities allocation by Feb. 1.

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