Schools

LASD public engagement process over BCS facilities begins in earnest

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Town Crier file photo
A proposed 10-year agreement between Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School would lease the charter school the bulk of the Egan Junior High School campus and move Egan to the 10th school site, above, which the district is purchasing. However, after public backlash to the prospect of moving Egan, the district is embarking on a public engagement process over charter school facilities.

Now that summer vacation is over and school is back in session, the Los Altos School District is preparing for the public engagement process over Bullis Charter School’s facilities to get into full swing.

The district is in the process of rolling out a toolkit, which includes a document outlining the history of the relationship between the district and charter school, as well as another document listing the possible facilities solutions considered over time.

Over the course of the next few weeks, district trustees plan to hold presentations throughout the community aimed at explaining the toolkit and encouraging people to participate in the process.

According to board president Jessica Speiser, the intent of the toolkit is to make a large amount of information digestible and understandable, so everyone is starting with a similar baseline of knowledge.

“I really want this to be an open and hospitable process,” Speiser said. “I’m working my hardest to make it so.”

The board decided to conduct the engagement process after protests in the spring over a proposed 10-year facilities agreement with the charter school.

The deal would lease the charter school the bulk of the Egan Junior High School campus. Egan would be moved to the 10th school site near the corner of Showers Drive and California Street in Mountain View, which the district is purchasing.

However, there was widespread outcry at the prospect of relocating Egan. School district parents organized protests outside of schools and attended board meetings to express opposition to the agreement.

Ultimately, the district’s board decided to table the measure and conduct a community engagement process to solicit feedback on what people wanted to see in a facilities agreement.

Near the end of the school year, the district hired MIG, a Berkeley-based firm, to help run the process. Joan Chaplick, a principal at MIG, is working with the district to lead the outreach campaign and collaborated with Speiser, trustee Vladimir Ivanovic and district staff to create the toolkit.

As of the Town Crier’s Monday press deadline, the toolkit had not yet been posted on the district’s website, but Speiser said it would be published in the coming days. The board also was slated to discuss the engagement process at a Monday evening board meeting.

Toolkit process

The toolkit is made up of two documents: a timeline of the district and charter school’s history, and a list of the facilities scenarios considered over the years.

Although those options weren’t picked for various reasons, Ivanovic said that doesn’t mean they can’t be considered again now. He was the only trustee to publicly oppose the 10-year agreement. In addition to considering existing options, Ivanovic said he hopes new possibilities may emerge.

“I would be actually very pleased if some new alternatives came up that we haven’t considered, that we haven’t thought of, which might work out better,” he said.

To compile the timeline and list of past facilities options, the district consulted a variety of historical documents, including old board meeting agendas.

The district also conducted interviews with various community members, including both district and charter school parents. Charter school board member Francis La Poll was among those interviewed, Speiser said.

In the coming weeks, board members will begin giving presentations to various community groups to share the toolkit and drum up participation in the process.

Speiser said she is contacting PTAs, the Bullis Boosters Club, the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce, Los Altos Community Foundation and various neighborhood associations.

Beginning in late September, the district is scheduled to host two charrettes and then two to three workshops, all led by MIG. The charrettes are intended as a chance for people to voice potential facilities options, as well as what characteristics they would like to see in the ultimate solution. The workshops are designed to help narrow down the choices.

The district is posting various documents and resources, including the toolkit, on its website at lasdschools.org/District/10745-Community-Engagement-on-Facilities.html.

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