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LASD board to put brakes on controversial BCS deal

Claiming the community needs more time to process it, the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees was poised Monday to postpone action on a controversial deal that would grant Bullis Charter School exclusive use of the Egan Junior High School campus.

The board meeting occurred after the Town Crier’s press deadline, but trustees signaled their intent to offer a two-year interim deal instead, that would allow the charter school to continue sharing campus space with district students at Egan and Blach Intermediate School.

The change in direction surfaced at the trustees’ April 25 meeting, just three days after the Bullis Charter School Board of Directors signed off on a 10-year agreement that would enable the charter school to occupy the Egan site no sooner that 2023 and would relocate Egan students to a yet-to-be-built 10th district campus in the San Antonio neighborhood of Mountain View.

Amid vocal opposition, district trustees wondered whether local residents needed more time to warm up to the deal.

“You have to give the people a chance to understand and have their concerns discussed,” said Trustee Bryan Johnson.

The new two-year proposal, to which the charter school board must also agree, would bring 12 additional portable classrooms to Egan and two more portables to Blach next year to accommodate projected jumps in Bullis’ enrollment to 1,105 students for the 2019-2020 school year and 1,111 for 2020-2021.

Johnson said the two-year proposal was already part of the original plan, and “there’s no public objection to the interim arrangement.”

He’s hoping the district can revisit the original negotiated agreement in six months, or no later than next January.

The charter school’s board was also scheduled Monday to discuss the district’s latest proposal.

BCS chairman surprised

“It was a bit of a surprise for me,” said Joe Hurd, Bullis Charter School board chairman and president. “We all think it was the right time (for the 10-year agreement).”

District Superintendent Jeff Baier emphasized that there is no ambiguity in the process.

“Out of a mediation team came a proposal, then we got public input (before) the final decision,” he said. “Our board has heard clearly – this is too fast. The negotiating team had 18 months – (the public indicated), ‘You’re trying to get us to accept this in three weeks.’ … It’s not a ‘no,’ it’s not a ‘yes.’ It’s, ‘We need more time to understand this.’”

Other aspects of the 10-year agreement include capping the K-8 charter school enrollment at 1,111 students and allowing 2.8 acres of the 18.8-acre Egan campus to be used for district teacher housing.

District officials, working with the city of Mountain View, are finalizing complex details of a land purchase for a 9.6-acre property that is currently a shopping center. The arrangement, which involves $23 million in city funding and nearly $80 million paid by developers for zoning rights, is expected to be finalized this year.

The new Mountain View campus is projected to open during the 2023-2024 school year at the earliest.

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