It is no surprise that the output of the 10th Site Advisory Task Force resulted in the most votes to move Bullis Charter School to the new 10th campus. Why? This was the only option that remained standing after all other options were artificially removed by district staff or the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees directly, or by the artificial constraints placed on the task force.
District staff shared multiple times that they were resistant to operating a neighborhood school or a magnet school at the site. Two-thirds of the task force members were handpicked loyalists chosen by the district, or employed by the district. There was no representation by taxpayers/community members who did not have kids in the district recently. Even the “final” report was written by district staff and paid consultants. The report was never voted on, discussed or reviewed collectively by the task force.
Further, district staff told the committee that no district school should be relocated or moved.
So, is it surprising the outcome was for Bullis Charter School to be placed on the 10th site? No.
Is this the best plan for all our public school students and our community? No.
Does it ensure the best outcome to support learning for each and every district student? No.
Is it the most fiscally responsible and transparent solution? No.
It is the easiest solution for the Los Altos School District leadership to implement and explain to district parents.
Secretly guarded by the district is the latest district enrollment data for the 2018-2019 school year. According to knowledgeable sources, enrollment at Los Altos School District schools is down another 160-plus students, but the district has yet to confirm the precise number, despite reporting daily enrollment to the state for more than a month.
With enrollment declining, the task force asked basic questions to determine whether the Los Altos School District even needs to acquire new land. Comparing any task force result to the best plan using existing land was deemed by district staff outside of the 10th-site task force’s mandate. In fact, a best plan to use existing land had not been completed or shared with the community or the task force.
Taxpayers should know that if Bullis Charter School is placed at the new 10th site, it will indeed be only part of the facilities solution for the charter school. How will taxpayers react to spending the full bond amount on a new building for Bullis Charter School at the 10th site when it is only part of the solution and would not be its sole location. The easiest way to look at this is that Bullis Charter School would have the facilities it has now and also receive the entire 10th site. Will parents and the community wake up and urge the district to explore scenarios using existing land?
Absent enrollment growth, we need to demand that a comprehensive plan using existing land be developed and made public. Taxpayers are footing the bill for the suboptimal planning.
Please urge district staff and trustees to share their optimal plans for using existing land and divulge the current enrollment numbers for our district schools.
It seems the 10th-site task force was more of a speed bump on the way to the easiest and most expensive destination for the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees than a thoughtful exercise elevating the learning experience for all public school students while being fiscally responsible with taxpayer money.
Jill Jene is a member of the 10th Site Advisory Task Force and the Facilities Master Planning Advisory Committee.