The Los Altos School District lost its bid to purchase the Raynor Activity Center in Sunnyvale last week, prompting officials to focus on other options for additional school sites.
The district pursued the Sunnyvale property with the intention of refurbishing it with bond funds and relocating Bullis Charter School to the campus. The Sunnyvale City Council June 12 voted to reject the district’s bid and begin negotiations for the Raynor site with the Stratford School.
Bullis Charter School balked at the Raynor site, located more than 3 miles outside school district boundaries and more than 7 miles from the charter school’s Egan Junior High School campus.
In conjunction with its bid on the Sunnyvale site, the Los Altos School District filed a lawsuit requesting that the court certify the district’s right to place the charter school outside district boundaries. District Board of Trustees President Doug Smith said the district still plans to move forward with the lawsuit.
“The question in front of the court is broader than just the Raynor site,” he said. “It asks the courts to declare the legality around placing Bullis Charter School outside district boundaries. Getting an answer to this question is worth doing.”
Charter school officials, who filed a countersuit to block the district’s proposal to move the charter school outside district boundaries, remain opposed to the district’s bid on Raynor and its ensuing lawsuit.
“This is a public relations, legal and financial disaster of the Los Altos School District’s own creation,” said Joe Hurd, charter school board member. “The trustees own this.”
Hurd said that rather than meet with the charter school’s board to discuss long-term options, the district continues to pursue legal redress.
“Their bid … wasn’t the winning bid because the only interests served here are those of the (district) trustees, not the Los Altos taxpayers, not the citizens of Sunnyvale and most of all not the children of Los Altos – the very people whose interest the trustees are supposed to promote and protect,” he said.
Finding a new site
The district formed a committee to research possibilities for a 10th site. Members have met throughout the year but choose to keep their interest in various sites private for negotiating purposes.
District Trustee Tammy Logan, who serves on the committee, said that while she expects members to meet over the summer, nothing is scheduled to date.
“The committee has identified some interesting sites, but given the litigation initiated by Bullis Charter School concerning Raynor, we have had very limited discussion,” Logan wrote in an email to the Town Crier. “A reply by the court concerning whether the district may legally offer a facility outside of the district will help us better focus our efforts.”
A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear arguments in the two suits regarding the Raynor site and the district’s right to place the charter school outside district boundaries the week of July 22.
Smith said district trustees have authorized staff to conduct discussions about potential properties.
“Conversations about other properties, both within and outside the district, are being pursued,” he said, and the timeline is moving “as fast as we can.”
Smith added that the district has yet to bid on other properties, and many sites on the district’s list of interest are not currently for sale.
District, charter school meeting
The Los Altos School District’s Enrollment Task Force last month released a report that emphasized the need for two new campuses to accommodate student growth and the importance of working in tandem with the Bullis Charter School board.
Smith said he reached out to charter school officials with a request that the two boards meet to discuss the task force’s findings.
“We want to move forward together with the charter school board for a permanent solution in regards to the task force recommendations,” he said.
Hurd also approached the district to jump-start the facilities allocation process for the 2014-2015 school year. The annual negotiating process typically begins in September.
Smith responded that the district would consider entering the facilities process early. Hurd is zeroing in on a date that would work for both boards, most likely over the summer.
“If Los Altos School District trustees want to have conversations, we can talk to the lawyers,” Hurd said. “We can agree that anything that is discussed cannot wind up in court – a legal cone of silence. The litigation is the past – let’s talk about the future.”