Los Altos School District trustees continued to weigh possible options for Bullis Charter School’s 2014-2015 facilities and whittled the list down to two.
After a back-and-forth discussion over projected enrollment numbers Dec. 9, the district is scheduled to present its preliminary facilities offer to the charter school by Feb. 1.
Examining the options
The district reviewed three options for charter school facilities: (1) exclusive use of Covington School – the charter school’s preference, (2) continuing to split the school between Egan Junior High and Blach Intermediate schools and (3) splitting the program among three campuses.
District trustees quickly removed the Covington option from the table after Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent for business services, said that was the costliest option. It would require the school district to redraw attendance boundaries, typically a one-year process.
“The goal here is to look for a long-term, peaceful coexistence,” said Trustee Pablo Luther. “I don’t think (the Covington option) will get us there. It is not viable at this point.”
Kenyon further explained details for continuing the two-site split, which could be divided so that K-5 students attend Egan and 6-8 students attend Blach (the current scenario). If there are larger increases in enrollment than projected, K-4 students could attend Egan and 5-8 students attend Blach, he proposed.
If the grade assignments remain as they are, Kenyon said the district would provide two additional portables at Egan to accommodate the K-4 growth but would not add portables at Blach. Under this option, the district projects 483 students at Egan and 122 at Blach.
If the district provided facilities for a K-4, 5-8 split, it would remove one portable from Egan and add three portables at Blach. Under this scenario, the district projects 408 students at Egan and 197 students at Blach.
Kenyon said the two-site split is the least disruptive for both district and charter school students as it preserves the status quo and proves the least costly option. He did, however, add that choosing this path could lead to continued litigation.
For a three-site split, Kenyon suggested Covington as a possible third site for housing K-2 students. Like the two-site split, he said, the district would still need to purchase an additional two portables for growth and might need an additional portable at Covington to serve as the charter school office. For this scenario, the district projects 241 students at Covington, 242 at Egan (third- through fifth-graders) and 122 at Blach (sixth-through eighth-graders).
The three-site option would add five portables in the rear of the Covington site, while charter school students would share the multipurpose space, the library, the fields and the staff lounge.
Kenyon said that while this option would relieve some of the impact on Egan, it disrupts a third set of district students (at Covington) and creates logistical challenges for Bullis Charter School.
District trustees said they were in favor of continuing the two-site split but wanted to keep the three-site option on the table in case California Environmental Quality Act regulations prevent the district from accommodating the growth on the Egan and Blach campuses.
“I’m open to suggestions on how to use the two campuses differently if we can use that as a bridge toward a long-term solution,” Trustee Steve Taglio said. “We need to have the appearance of moving forward here.”
Charter school parents attended the meeting to provide feedback, with many requesting that the district work to fix the current facilities problems (lack of play space) and carefully consider the enrollment projection information the charter school is scheduled to deliver by Jan. 2.
In response to charter school parents’ arguments, newly appointed board president Tammy Logan said the charter school board did not legally have to identify Covington School as its preferred option. The Bullis board could have requested the two-site split, she said.
“They didn’t choose to do that,” Logan said. “Charter school is all about choices, and what your board is choosing to do is not representing what we are hearing from the parents.”
At their next regularly scheduled board meeting Jan. 13, trustees will decide which option to implement, Kenyon said. At the Jan. 27 meeting, they will review the details and vote on the preliminary offer by the Feb. 1 deadline.