No detailed plans for LASD’s 10th site, yet

The Los Altos School District Board of Trustees decided Monday night to hold off on developing a detailed plan for use of its 10th site.

The district is in the process of purchasing land for a 10th campus at the corner of Showers Drive and California Street in Mountain View, in collaboration with the city of Mountain View. Trustees are hoping for the city of Mountain View to chip in $23 million for the site because the school’s open spaces would be available to the public after school hours. The city council originally asked for a complete plan for the site by its Oct. 16 meeting in order to make a final decision, but trustees said they’re not ready to submit a detailed plan. They’re hoping for a favorable final decision anyway.

 The city council prefers a neighborhood school for the site, and trustees will have to decide whether to house Bullis Charter School or a neighborhood school there.

“Given all the uncertainty we’re dealing with, we can’t make that decision today,” said Trustee Bryan Johnson, after the meeting.

Johnson said determining the use for the new site would be premature years in advance of the opening of the new school, given that the district’s future enrollment, the charter school’s future enrollment and the district’s future revenues are all unknowns. District officials also have discussed for years whether to transition to a middle school model, where grades 6-8 are together rather than just grades 7-8.

Trustee Steve Taglio noted that statewide politics will play into the decision as well – Gavin Newsom has stated that if he is elected governor, he would instate universal preschool, which would mean an expansion of the transitional kindergarten programs in the Los Altos School District.

BCS growth

In a presentation at the Oct. 8 meeting, Joe Hurd, chairman of the Bullis Charter School Board of Directors, said the charter school has 915 students presently and intends to grow to 1,200 in the next three to five years, but he did not say in which grades that growth would occur.

“I believe that every parent who wants to choose a BCS education for their child should be able to do so,” Hurd said, clarifying that he was speaking only for himself and not for the board.

The charter school’s board members did not give specific facilities requests to the district at the meeting, saying that they could not talk specifics because they were in the middle of the formal legal application for next year’s facilities. However, David Jaques, a member of the charter school board, said being split between two sites is a financial hardship as certain site costs are doubled and educational specialists have to travel between the two campuses. He added that it doesn’t make sense to house the largest school, Bullis Charter School, on the smallest site. The targeted Kohl’s site, if it does come in at 9.6 acres, would be slightly smaller than Almond, Gardner Bullis, Springer, Oak Avenue and Loyola schools, which are all approximately 10 acres, and roughly 8 acres smaller than the district’s junior high schools.

District trustees intend to present a high-level vision for the 10th site at their Oct. 16 board meeting.

“In order to really deliver as much value as possible to the neighborhood, it doesn't make sense to try to finalize (the site’s use) today when that school isn't going to open for years,” Johnson said after the meeting.

Johnson said trustees hope to get full sign-off from the city of Mountain View Oct. 16 based on the board’s high-level intentions for the site. Taglio said after the meeting that he does not want future boards to have to go before the council again to seek approval from the city about what’s going to go there.

“This is not just a school site, this is a community asset,” Trustee Sangeeth Peruri said.

UPDATE: The Mountain View City Council decided last week that it would not discuss the Los Altos School District’s 10th site until the district’s board of trustees determines which school to place there.

The district can’t perform a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) analysis, which will take a year, until it owns the site.

“It’s not that we want to buy the land and then figure out what to do with it, it’s that we can’t make all the decisions about the land until we own it,” Johnson said.

Johnson added that he was disappointed that trustees won’t be able to talk to the Mountain View City Council yet, but they will continue to move forward by finalizing the purchase of the site and talking with city officials to find out what exactly they need to know.

Could the district buy the land without the assurance that the city of Mountain View would be contributing $23 million?

“We’ll see how the numbers pencil out,” Johnson said. “The land purchase needs to get wrapped up. There’s urgency around that. Whatever the preliminary plan is, then there will be a CEQA analysis that might adjust the plan. If the plan calls for attendance boundary adjustments, that can’t happen until a year before the school opens.”

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