Wed12242014

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LASD board whittles BCS facilities options


Photo By: Courtesy of Google Maps
Photo Courtesy Of Google Maps

Los Altos School District officials have expressed interest in Sunnyvale’s Raynor Activity Center, above, as a possible site for a 10th school, despite being 2.5 miles outside district boundaries.

The Los Altos School District Board of Trustees last week narrowed its options for accommodating Bullis Charter School’s facilities needs for next year.

After hearing from several Santa Rita School parents at the Dec. 10 board meeting, district trustees nixed the option of swapping the charter school’s campus at Egan Junior High School with the Santa Rita campus.

“Swapping Bullis Charter School and any school makes no sense to me,” board President Doug Smith said.

After much discussion of the options, the board narrowed the district’s scope to possibly closing Covington School, dispersing its population to other district schools and giving Bullis Charter School the campus; dividing charter school students between Egan and Blach Intermediate School, with the option of adding a third campus to accommodate Bullis’ population if two campuses are not sufficient; and pursuing a new site for the charter school.

Closing Covington?

While the trustees oppose closing a district school to accommodate the charter school, some felt it was necessary to explore that option because it’s the one Bullis Charter School officials favor.

“I would like the staff to evaluate the impact of Bullis Charter School at Covington,” Smith said. “What does that mean to us in terms of distributing our students, and what does that mean to the sites they go to?”

Trustee Steve Taglio said he opposed closing Covington and doubted that the district could successfully make it happen within the short time span allotted to draft a preliminary facilities offer to the charter school.

“I don’t see how that is a short-term option,” he said. “How can you tell Covington in less than six weeks that you are going to close that school? Understand the ramifications of your choice here.”

The three-campus option

To move ahead with the possibility of splitting the charter school among three campuses, trustees discussed the need for a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) study on a third campus. A CEQA is a statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.

Trustees said they preferred to limit the split to Blach and Egan, but they realized that the charter school’s growth may make it impossible. The board directed district staff to consider Covington for the third campus.

Both Blach and Egan have a previous CEQA, which permits housing a camp school with an additional 600 students at each campus. Covington would require a CEQA because its current one is limited to 600 students.

The board directed staff to proceed with the CEQA for an additional 250 students, eventually approving the campus for approximately 850 students, barring any significant environmental impacts.

In search of a 10th site

The district staff and some of its subcommittees have been actively searching for a new site – which would be a 10th campus – to lease or purchase for the charter school. Options include sites outside district boundaries.

Trustees discussed the 10th site with interest. While some doubted it would be feasible for the 2013-2014 school year, others were more optimistic.

“I’m a big proponent of finding a 10th site, and I’d like to get it done in the next year,” Trustee Mark Goines said. “We need the cooperation of Bullis Charter School to do that, otherwise it will take a long time.”

To fund a new site, Randy Ken-yon, assistant superintendent for business services, said the district could borrow against future revenue. He added that district staff is examining borrowing models and scenarios.

The board unanimously approved sending a letter of interest to the city of Sunnyvale regarding the Raynor Activity Center – a former school site – which is up for sale.

The letter, sent last week, provides the district 60 days to consider the property and negotiate with Sunnyvale officials.

Kenyon said the site, located at 1500 Partridge Ave., is 2.5 miles outside the district’s boundaries.

Grace Yang, a Bullis Charter School parent who attended last week’s meeting, spoke to the school’s distance from the area. Yang said her Google Maps search for traveling to the Raynor site from the district offices on Covington Road indicated 22 minutes of driving time without traffic.

“(The Raynor site) is not realistic,” she said. “My tax dollars would be better spent by turning the camp site into a permanent site.”

Kenyon also mentioned the former site of Blossom Valley School in San Jose’s Oak Grove School District as a possibility. Two groups currently lease the property, but Kenyon said those leases expire in the next two years.

Trustees said the district is also examining other options, both within and outside its boundaries, and will discuss them as they become possibilities.

The district has until Feb. 1 to submit a preliminary facilities offer to Bullis Charter School.

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