A judge ruled last week that the Los Altos School District’s facilities allocation for Bullis Charter School, divided between two campuses, falls within state law.
Judge Mark Pierce of the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, heard arguments June 20 regarding the 2013-2014 charter school facilities, which are split between Egan Junior High and Blach Intermediate school sites. The charter school’s legal team claimed that placing the school on noncontiguous sites did not comply with the state’s facilities law.
Ruling in favor of the district, Pierce stated that facilities regulations “do not require that a district reconfigure existing facilities simply because a charter school has a configuration not found at the district’s existing schools.” Bullis Charter School serves a K-8 population, while district campuses are configured to split elementary students (K-6) and junior high students (7-8).
The ruling also stated, “There is no requirement that a school district provide an offer of facilities to a charter school at only contiguous sites.”
In his decision, Pierce found that the school district did not abuse its discretion and ultimately denied the charter school’s motion in the lawsuit. Pierce is the seventh trial court judge in Santa Clara County since 2004 to rule in favor of the school district in rejecting the charter school’s legal challenge to its facilities allocation.
“The district spent countless hours considering public input and exploring different facilities options that balanced the needs of students attending district schools and Bullis Charter School,” said Los Altos School District Superintendent Jeff Baier. “We are grateful that the court took the time to absorb the extensive documentation and evaluate the issues in a relatively brief period of time.”
Reactions to the ruling
Doug Smith, president of the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees, said he was pleased with the rapid resolution from the court, but stressed that additional legal facilities matters are still pending.
“During the hearing, Judge Pierce expressed his dismay that so much money and time is being spent on litigation,” Smith said. “We couldn’t agree more. We urge Bullis Charter School to abandon this path of expensive and ultimately fruitless litigation and work with the district and community to find a long-term facilities solution to our growing population of public school students.”
Joe Hurd, member of the Bullis Charter School Board of Directors, said the charter school pursues litigation to defend the best interests its students.
“Engaging in legal battles with the Los Altos School District has never been our first choice, but when we have repeatedly seen (the district) act in a manner that is incongruent with the best interests of our students and refuse to engage in meaningful negotiations to remedy such mistreatment, our only option is to use litigation to prevent further manipulation and infringement,” he said.
Hurd added that charter school officials agreed with the court’s position that the parties should work via mediation and negotiation to find a way to share public facilities, which is why “Bullis Charter School proposed the 2012 mediation and worked hard to support the framework agreement the parties reached at that time.”