Bullis Charter School officials have asked to occupy all of Egan Junior High’s campus in the 2019-2020 school year.
The charter school requested the district’s largest campus as part of the legal process through which charter schools are allocated facilities, mandated by Proposition 39. Proposition 39 grants charter schools “reasonably equivalent” facilities to district schools.
“We’re happy with the Egan site because that’s where the majority of our school already is,” said Joe Hurd, chairman of the Bullis Charter School Board of Directors.
The charter school houses all of its sixth- through eighth-grade and some of its kindergarten through fifth-grade students in portable classrooms at Egan. The other kindergarten through fifth-grade classes are on the Blach Intermediate School campus.
The facilities request is the first of its kind in years, as the Los Altos School District and the charter school are under a five-year facilities agreement that expires in 2019.
“In LASD’s view, the request is a step back from the collaborative and community-embracing approach the five-year facilities agreement adopted,” a press release from the Los Altos School District stated.
The facilitites agreement required that Bullis Charter School cap its enrollment at 945 students and be housed in portables at Blach and Egan. In return, the district promised to look for a permanent facilities solution for the charter school. Back in 2013, in the last facilities request, the charter school asked for Covington’s 15-acre campus.
“Proposition 39 states that we need to make an offer of reasonably equivalent facilities, and we have to weigh the entirety of the needs of all public school students in making this decision,” said Jeffrey Baier, Los Altos School District superintendent.
District officials have been pursuing the purchase of a 10th site, at the corner of California Street and Showers Drive in Mountain View, for several months. They have not yet made a decision about which school would be located there.
Bullis Charter School parents have made it clear that they do not want to move to the 10th site because of its location and have argued that at 9.6 acres, the site is not large enough to accommodate the school’s population.
Free from the enrollment cap, Bullis Charter School has enrolled 1,105 students for the 2019-2020 school year, 190 more than are currently enrolled. Of those students, 1,058 are in-district, which means the district is obligated to provide facilities for them.
This is the first year the charter school has held its open-enrollment period early enough that the students would actually be enrolled by the time the request was submitted. Charter school officials also said there are 211 in-district students on the waiting list for 2019.
Bullis Charter School calculated that for the district’s acreage per student to be equivalent to the charter school’s acreage, the charter school would need a 25-acre campus but named 18-acre Egan as its preference. Hurd said that when submitting a facilities request, the school is required to ask for a particular facility, and selecting a facility other than Egan would mean giving up some rights to the land.
Proposition 39 requires that the charter school ask for either a site or a general geographic area in its annual facilities request.
During 10th Site Advisory Task Force meetings, members discussed the idea of relocating Egan to the 10th site, but the majority of the group opposed the move.
Kate Hillier, an Almond School parent, said that she'd collected signatures from many families opposed to moving Egan's students to the 10th site. She added that seventh- and eighth-graders are at a critical stage in their independence, and moving them to a site where they would have to cross major roads to walk or bike to school would be harmful.
“We are fundamentally opposed to putting Egan at the new school site,” Hillier said.
Egan Junior High is a five-minute drive from the proposed 10th site, but it is across El Camino Real and San Antonio Road, two heavily congested roadways.
At a district board meeting during which the 10th site was discussed, Trustee Steve Taglio said moving Egan’s students to the 10th site was “not a viable option.”
“The board has been clear in the past that its desire has been to maintain neighborhood schools for the community,” Baier said.
This school year, the charter school has 622 students on Egan’s campus, more than the district’s 586 students enrolled at Egan.
Hurd said that while he does not want to disrupt any students’ education, the charter school occupying Egan constitutes the smallest amount of disruption.
“BCS has been in portable facilities for all 15 years of its existence,” he said.
Baier said the district board will discuss the request in the next few months and provide an offer of facilities to the charter school by Feb. 1.
“It will be important to have the community weigh in on this decision,” he said.
An online petition against moving the charter school to Egan's campus, created on Nov. 2, had 1,650 signatures by the morning of Nov. 5.