Other Voices: Unintended Consequences – an early 2020 update

Much has happened since our first column in the Town Crier (“Group exploring ‘unintended consequences’ of LASD-BCS facilities use,” Sept. 4), when we launched our effort to foster constructive, fact-based dialogue discussing the issues facing our community, the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School. Some of the questions and issues discussed in that article have gained additional clarity, while new issues have emerged.

The school district has now finalized the purchase of a 10th school site with a projected five-year completion timeline and no decision yet on which school will be placed there. At a Jan. 27 meeting, the district board of trustees received a report on the many site options for Bullis Charter School with a tight timeline for the evaluation of several popular options generated from the vast matrix of ideas and input presented. This next phase will apply practical consideration to each idea and determine the cost, safety and location of the options. Because proximity popularity was important in the initial workshops and charettes the district conducted, now the focus will be on “can it work?”

Other major considerations will impact the basic structure of our schools and school sites. These range from a potential shift from having two junior high schools, Egan and Blach, to enlarging both schools to a 6-8 grade configuration. These options will significantly alter the size, scope of work and staff for all district schools. The K-5 model has been discussed for some time and now may be implemented. The answers to all of these questions, of course, will dramatically affect public education in our community for many years to come.

Over the past six months, a great deal has been learned about the operation and thinking of Bullis Charter School in its various pivots since its inception – from the first initial goal of serving 310 students of a temporarily closed neighborhood school (lasting less than five years) through a decade-long reinvention into a charter with the goal of serving all students in the district. Other pivots have taken place to alter the grades served, the enrollment area and admission preferences.

We believe it’s time to ask Bullis Charter School to embrace another pivot to become more aligned with the Los Altos School District in terms of serving all district students. Examples of issues this next pivot should address include:

• Bullis Charter School enrollment does not currently reflect the race, ethnicity, economic status or proportional numbers of English-language learners and special-needs students of the Los Altos School District population, which is inconsistent with the intent of the charter act.

• Out-of-district recruitment has been helpful to Bullis Charter School in filling seventh- and eighth-grade enrollment for several years, to the financial detriment of Los Altos School District students.

We invite interested parents, politicians and senior citizens to visit our website, needanotherlook.com, for data-driven research (and the underlying data) on the history of Bullis Charter School and the current view of the charter school’s position within, and impact on, district schools.

We remain committed to our core values that all children matter, neighborhoods matter and the spirit of the law matters. Please stay engaged.

Sam Harding and Steve Brown are members of Unintended Consequences, a group comprising residents concerned about how Los Altos School District facilities are shared with Bullis Charter School.

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