BCS questions trustees over 10th-site decision

While the Los Altos School District pursues its plan to purchase a 10th campus in Mountain View, the district has yet to decide which school the site will house.

The Bullis Charter School Board of Directors and parents questioned the decision to acquire the site, as well as the idea of moving the charter school there, at the charter school’s board meeting Oct. 1. The meeting marked the first time the charter school’s board and two of the district’s trustees discussed the 10th site in public together.

“I wouldn’t purchase a piece of land, myself, unless I knew what I was going to do with it,” said Trenna Sutcliffe, a member of Bullis Charter School’s board.

Other board members and local residents echoed Sutcliffe’s sentiment.

However, Los Altos School District Trustees Bryan Johnson and Vladimir Ivanovic said the decision to buy land makes sense given that the district, combined with the charter school, is over capacity for its current nine sites and that new housing is being built in the northern part of the district.

“Use of the 10th site may change over time, but the district will have a lot more flexibility and the community has a lot more open space and a much greater asset if we do it,” Johnson said.

The district is in the process of acquiring the site at the corner of Showers Drive and California Street and met with negotiators from the shopping center, owned by Federal Realty, five times in closed session between Sept. 24 and Oct. 2. The details of the negotiations will not be made public until the sale is finalized. The district expects to receive up to $79 million by selling development rights that come with the land to real estate developers and $23 million from the city of Mountain View in exchange for the rights to use the space after school hours.

The district has a list of interested buyers of the development rights – and a waitlist – but the actual sale can’t go through until the district has purchased the land. Bullis Charter School board member Rich Ying expressed his concern that the transfer of development rights might fall apart should the economy experience a downturn between the purchase of the land and the sale of the development rights, leaving the district short $79 million. Ivanovic and Johnson said while that is a possibility, they were confident developers would follow through on buying the rights.

Which school should move

The majority of the Los Altos School District’s 10th Site Advisory Task Force selected moving Bullis Charter School to the new site, instead of creating a neighborhood school there, moving Egan Junior High or developing a magnet school.

Trustees haven’t finalized their decision about the 10th site, and Ivanovic said at least one trustee does not want to move the charter school there.

Bullis Charter School board members questioned the need for a 10th site and expressed concern for the district families who live north of El Camino Real and are without a neighborhood school.

They did not express a preference for the charter school’s permanent home, but parents were united in opposing moving their school to the 10th site.

“You would like to know if we are interested in occupying that site or not,” board member Clara Roa told trustees. “We don’t know how many children could fit in a site, we don't know what the (California Environmental Quality Act) status is going to say. It’s a very difficult question to answer without a lot of details about the site.”

The details board members want may be a long way off, but Johnson and Ivanovic said they want to continue to hear from the charter school community about its needs and wants regarding a permanent home.

The trustees invited members of the Bullis Charter School board to present at the district’s board meeting Monday, the final meeting before the district is scheduled to unveil its plan for the 10th site to the Mountain View City Council Oct. 16.

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