Sun04202014

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BCS agrees to two-campus split as district readies offer


Photo By: Courtesy of Bullis Charter School
Photo Courtesy Of Bullis Charter School

Bullis Charter School officials released this schematic, with the charter school campus outlined in red, of a workable arrangement for the split-campus option at Blach.

With the Los Altos School District’s preliminary charter school facilities offer due Friday, Bullis Charter School officials last week agreed to the split-campus solution for the upcoming school year.

Doug Smith, president of the district’s board of trustees, said it is unlikely at this point that the district could work the charter school’s request into its initial offer.

“It’s late to add their request to the preliminary process,” he said. “It’s something we can use as their baseline response.”

A split charter school

Ken Moore, chairman of the Bullis Charter School Board of Directors, presented the charter school’s perception of a split campus at a charter school-hosted luncheon last week.

“This is a major compromise from our standpoint,” he said. “Bullis Charter School would be the only school program (in the district) split between two sites.”

The charter school requested that facilities at both Egan Junior High and Blach Intermediate schools be self-contained, with accommodations equal to all other sites, including a playground, library, school office and teacher work areas.

He added that the charter school requests that its students located at Blach are provided the same number of hours per week in shared facilities as Blach students.

“Ultimately a Bullis Charter School student and a Blach student should not have dissimilar experiences,” he said. “They should both have science labs, gym and track time, and all the rest of the amenities that students enjoy at a district school.”

The current Blach configuration, which includes four portables, does not provide a workable solution for the middle school program, according to Moore. It includes gerrymandered portions of land, with one portable designated as a nurse’s station, locker room, school office and other uses.

Charter school officials drafted the proposal after examining the Blach Camp School site, used during previous district construction.

Advantages and disadvantages

Moore outlined the advantages and disadvantages of the split-campus option.

On the negative side, he said, splitting the campus could prove a more costly solution than providing the charter school with a single site, such as Covington School, which charter school officials originally requested.

Moore added that with the Egan and Blach campuses miles apart, the district would need to provide additional facilities to make the split workable. The charter school would face increased hiring expenses to staff a split program, and the multisite option could be a burden for charter school families with students assigned to different campuses.

On the positive side, the proposal does not require a single district student to change schools, nor would the district have to close any site. It would not require immediate public funds to purchase more land and allows the district time to evaluate enrollment projections. The split-site solution would not interfere with the city’s Hillview Community Center project, nor would it require a land swap with the city.

“Bullis Charter School ultimately needs a permanent site, but we need a workable short-term solution that accommodates the students choosing to attend our school,” Moore said.

Moving ahead

Moore proposed a meeting between the school district’s and the charter school’s leadership to establish a manageable two-site solution.

“As a first step, we propose a working team to meet intensively and transparently,” he said. “Meetings will be open to the public and hopefully rise above the Proposition 39 process to come up with a workable solution.”

Smith plans to raise the idea of the potential working group at the district’s Monday board meeting, past the Town Crier’s press deadline.

“I want to have a dialogue,” Smith said. “I also underscore the fact that the district is responsible for 5,000 students, where the charter school has only 500 or so.”

He said continued litigation would impact the facilities offer.

“Sooner or later you have to decide: Are you at war with me or not?” Smith said. “The district’s flexibility is going to be influenced by the litigation.”

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