Tue11252014

Schools

School district, Bullis Charter School officially conclude legal action

The Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School last week officially concluded legal action pertaining to the Court of Appeal’s decision on the 2009-2010 facilities offer to the charter school.

The Hon. Patricia Lucas of the Santa Clara County Superior Court issued a judgment March 26 that closed the case that addresses portions of Proposition 39 law, which required school districts to provide “reasonably equivalent” facilities for charter school students.

The two sides walked away with disparate viewpoints on the ruling.

Ken Moore, charter school board chairman, said the ruling clarified what the facilities offer, including the 2012-2013 offer, should encompass.

A press release from the charter school said the ruling ordered that the district must:

• Provide Bullis with reasonably equivalent facilities.

• Use actual building size and outdoor space when conducting the equivalency analysis, ending the practice of using “standard” room sizes.

• Measure all outdoor space when conducting the equivalency analysis.

• Offer Bullis facilities, such as a child-care facility and amphitheater, that are reasonably equivalent to those of Los Altos School District schools.

• End its practice of charging Bullis to share space, as it ignores established sharing agreements.

“The time is now for the Los Altos School District board members to ensure that all public school students in our community are given access to equivalent facilities,” Moore said.

Moore contended that the district must amend its 2012-2013 facilities offer to make it legally compliant, as the current offer proposes that the charter school serve 439 students on a site that was deemed “insufficient” for 327 students by the California Court of Appeal.

District officials disagreed with the charter school representatives’ contentions, claiming in a statement last week that they have worked to include the judge’s clarifications in their latest facilities offer (see story on page 1).

The district also claimed victory in a number of areas, specifically noting that the ruling shoots down the charter school’s right to a campus of its own.

“Importantly, however, the judgment rejects Bullis Charter School’s request to add findings that the Court of Appeal never made,” Superintendent Jeff Baier said in the statement. “Rather … the judgment does not require the district to provide the charter school with its own exclusive campus, nor does it require any pre-set minimum acreage for the district’s school facilities offer to comply with Proposition 39.”

Baier added that the law requires the district to provide reasonably equivalent facilities, “which involves a practical assessment of the quality of the facilities and does not require the kind of formulaic approach that the charter school has been demanding.”

Moore said the ruling provides a “direct path” to Lucas, meaning charter school officials could choose to bring the 2012-2013 facilities offer back to the judge if they deem it fails to uphold the clarifications in her ruling.

Looking ahead, Los Altos School District board President Mark Goines said the district is still committed to developing a long-term facilities solution for the charter school.

“The district remains hopeful that the mediation efforts currently under way between it and Bullis Charter School will result in a long-term solution on the allocation of facilities so that both the district and the charter school can concentrate on their key missions – educating children,” he said.

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