Bullis Charter School plans to apply this fall to charter a new elementary school in the Mountain View Whisman School District.
The school will start out teaching kids in transitional kindergarten through second grade, according to a press release from school officials. The charter school has made clear its intent to open a nearby school that serves a high number of students eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch in its strategic plan for years, but the endeavor will officially get going this fall.
“BCS is experiencing a time of unprecedented growth yet a lack of additional facilities limits its potential,” officials said in a press release issued Friday.
The news comes at a time when Bullis Charter School’s facilities are hotly contested. The Los Altos School District is in the process of acquiring land for a 10th site, located at the corner of Showers Drive and California Street in Mountain View. The Los Altos School District Board of Trustees has not yet decided on the best use for that site, but the options include moving the charter school there, creating a neighborhood school there or relocating Egan Junior High School there.
At the 10th Site Advisory Task Force’s meeting Aug. 27, the majority of task force members voted to recommend to move the charter school to the new Mountain View site, but charter school parent Jill Jene was strongly opposed. She argued that moving the charter school to Mountain View would be inconvenient and unsafe for students to walk or bike to, as it’s not centrally located within the district. She also was concerned that the 9.65-acre site would not have ample space to accommodate all of the school’s current students.
The new school that Bullis Charter School intends to open in Mountain View (separate from the 10th site) will be open to all students in the Mountain View Whisman School District but will prioritize applicants who qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch or have a sibling at the school.
Students who receive a free or reduced-price lunch come from families whose annual income falls below a designated threshold; for the 2018-2019 school year, a child from a household of four would be eligible for the program if his or her family earned less than $46,435 annually, or was already receiving support from social services like CalFresh or CalWORKs.
The charter school has been criticized previously for not serving a low-income population: According to the California Department of Education, fewer than 10 of Bullis Charter School’s 825 students qualified for a free or reduced-price lunch in 2017. The charter school has run programs specifically for low-income students, however, like the Bullis Boosters Summer Bridge Camp, an enrichment program for local low-income students.
In the 2016-2017 school year, the Mountain View Whisman district had just under 2,000 students who qualified for a free or reduced-price lunch, 34.3 percent of its total enrollment, according to the California Department of Education. In the Los Altos School District, approximately 5 percent of students received a free or reduced-price lunch that year.
The new charter school intends to serve 168 students initially and eventually grow to 320 students in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade, according to the press release. The school is expected to follow the same curriculum as Bullis Charter School, emphasizing individualized learning, science, technology, art and math.
There are two upcoming informational sessions scheduled regarding the new school: 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8 at 102 West Portola Ave. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 1124 Covington Road.
For more information on the new charter school, see next week’s issue of the Town Crier.