School district, charter school discuss facilities offer face-to-face

Photo By: Traci Newell/Town Crier
Photo Traci Newell/Town Crier Bullis Charter School board members Joe Hurd and Peter Evans, left, met with Los Altos School District trustees Tammy Logan and Doug Smith Feb. 13.

Representatives from the Bullis Charter School Board of Directors and the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees met last week to discuss the district’s preliminary offer as they move forward in the annual facilities process.

The district’s preliminary offer would split Bullis Charter School’s program between the Egan Junior High School and Blach Intermediate School campuses.

As charter school board members Joe Hurd and Peter Evans listed specific requirements for charter school facilities next year, Trustees Doug Smith and Tammy Logan provided feedback.

Evans emphasized that the charter school would like to enroll a “critical mass” of students, approximately 200, on the Blach campus. The district’s preliminary offer allocates space for 125 students.

“We think of critical mass as trying to maintain a K-8 program at two sites,” Evans said. “There has to be enough there so that the students’ experience is what we want it to be.”

Smith responded that the district must perform a balancing act to make the facilities offer work.

“There are some practical realities forced upon us because of the real estate,” he said. “Essentially what happens at Egan is more land, with more programmatic sharing at Blach.”

The district’s preliminary offer recommends that Bullis Charter School house sixth- through eighth-graders on the Blach campus. Charter school board members said they would decide which grades will use Blach, and it could be second- and seventh-graders.

“I think grade configuration is going to be a back and forth,” Hurd said. “Having those sorts of conversations will be beneficial so that we can work those issues out.”

Evans said the charter school expects to serve 615 in-district students next year. The district based its preliminary offer on a counter-projection of 572 students.

Smith is interested in obtaining as much information as possible from charter school officials in their March 1 response to the preliminary offer, which he anticipates should assist the district in resolving problems.

For instance, “Information that says this space would be more useful if we can pave it,” he said. “I’m open to that type of a conversation.”

Smith and Logan expressed optimism that the conversations between Blach Principal Sandra McGonagle and Bullis Charter School Principal/Superintendent Wanny Hersey could help shape and perfect the sharing arrangement so that it works for both programs.

If McGonagle and Hersey can agree on sharing schedules, then the respective boards should be “fine” with whatever agreements they reach, Smith said.

Evans said hearing that some of the sharing was “fair game” was “very helpful.”

Logan and Smith said they had received feedback that the preliminary offer was difficult to read and understand, and Smith offered to craft the final offer “into a format that makes better sense.”

Evans emphasized the importance of having a self-contained site at Blach.

“We can’t have some nondescript square-footage,” he said. “It has to be functional in order to operate a school at that site.”

Logan and Smith requested as much clarification as possible in the charter school’s March 1 response.

“My suggestion would be, as you prepare your March 1 letter, be specific about how you are going to use the space,” Smith said, adding that if there are better configurations for the extra portable space, the district is willing to accommodate their needs.

“Just tell me what you want and I’m open to listening to what you need,” he said.

The two parties talked at length about student safety and staggering start times in an effort to mitigate traffic congestion.

A potential meeting originally scheduled for Monday remains unconfirmed pending discussion among school district trustees.

Schools »

Read More

Sports »

Read More

People »

Read More

Special Sections »

Special Sections
Read More

Photos of Los Altos

Browse and buy photos