Los Altos School District officials submitted their final facilities offer for 2012-2013 to Bullis Charter School last weekend, prompting charter school representatives to rally for a response likely to come in court.
The district trustees offered charter school students more space at Egan Junior High School than last year, plus ancillary space at Blach Intermediate School. After briefly vetting the notion of sharing Covington School with charter students, trustees returned to a familiar option: portables at Egan, only this time, more of them.
Trustees voted unanimously at their March 26 board meeting to draft an offer ultimately alloting charter students 7.7 acres of space on the Egan campus and add two more portables for onsite day-care facilities. At Blach, they approved offering approximately 3.7 acres of space, four portables and access to facilities such as science labs.
The district recommended that the charter school house kindergarten through sixth-grade students at Egan, and junior high students at Blach. The charter school forecasts 54 seventh- and eighth-graders next year.
Ken Moore, chairman of the Bullis Charter School Board of Directors, said in an interview last week that the offer as described at the board meeting would be an “illegal facilities offer.” He said the charter school’s first step would be to return to Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas, who has retained jurisdiction over the dispute. For more on her most recent legal ruling, see the story on page 15.
“As long as there’s a campus reasonably able to hold all the students, it’s supposed to be contiguous. We’ve forecasted 493 in-district students for next year and pretty much every LASD campus is rated for 600-plus,” Moore said. “The most obvious problem is, we have a very integrated K-8 program where having them together is a very useful part of it.”
Mark Goines, chairman of the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees, prefaced the district’s discussion of the offer with the comment that the judge’s “order specifically does not require the district to house BCS on its own site; further, it does not specify the acreage that BCS must be housed on.”
“What it does is, in a positive sense on behalf of the charter school, free up some of the real estate to accommodate a smaller proportion of the students,” district Trustee Bill Cooper said of the Egan-Blach split.
Moore questioned why the district proposed moving the charter school’s junior high students to Blach, when at Egan, “they’re sitting on a campus where a large number of students that would have gone to Blach are interdistrict transfers to Egan – 54 kids is only a couple of portables to Egan. It’s ludicrous. Egan’s an 18-acre site.”
retired for the year
The idea of a Covington “super-campus” was shelved at the same meeting, but not permanently – some trustees thought the idea worth pursuing in more detail for the following year. Parents, predominantly of Covington students, attended the board meeting with concerns about the traffic, parking and space-sharing a split campus would necessitate.
“I think they think about buildings and where are we going to put people, but not about how are we all going to get there,” said parent Cameron Hamblin, whose daughters walk to Covington.
“How can we ensure that a well-functioning school and a wider community don’t end up as a failing school?” asked Suresh Babu at the meeting, citing overcrowding and safety concerns as potential drags on Covington’s overall quality.
Moore, speaking for the charter school point of view in an interview, also wasn’t a fan of the super-campus split.
“Trying to jam our 550 students with another 500-something onto Covington – that’s kind of what we have right now at Egan, but Egan has a little bit better ingress and egress, in regard to traffic,” he said.
Moore said the charter school instead seeks “exclusive use” of Covington, Gardner Bullis, Santa Rita or Almond, or a newly constructed campus.
Bond measure research begins
At the same board meeting, district trustees voted to hire a consultant to research how and when to float a new bond measure. The district last won a bond in 2000, the proceeds of which underwrote construction of Gardner Bullis School. A new bond would potentially fund a new, 10th campus.
“If we can’t find a 10th site, then the best long-term solution for us is to share Covington,” Goines said.
He noted that the district didn’t yet know what configuration would best allow that to happen, but the proposed Egan-Blach split for 2012-2013 gives trustees time to decide.