LASD meeting on BCS facilities draws overflow crowd, extra workshop is scheduled

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Zoe Morgan/Town Crier
Blach Intermediate School's multipurpose room was filled at Monday's (Nov. 4) workshop on Bullis Charter School facilities. Organizers brought in extra chairs and benches to accomodate the crowd, and some attendees stood around the edges of the room.

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, the date of the third workshop was incorrect. It is slated for Nov. 18.

The crowd at Monday’s (Nov. 4) workshop on identifying long-term facilities for Bullis Charter School filled Blach Intermediate School’s multipurpose room, with the line to sign in stretching part of the way around the building.

When it became clear that more people had shown up than supplies could accommodate, Los Altos School District officials announced that they plan to host an additional workshop in the coming weeks.

Organizers distributed all of the approximately 400 handheld “clickers” they had on hand, which attendees used to rate their level of support for 55 facilities options.

Joan Chaplick of MIG, the firm the school district hired to run the public outreach campaign, told participants that rather than picking their favorite choice, they could support as many options as they preferred.

“We really encourage you to think about the multitude of ideas you support, not just one,” she said to attendees. “I just really want to emphasize that.”

Ultimately, four of the options received majority support, and 30-plus options drew opposition from more than 90% of the crowd.

To rate each of the options, attendees chose between: “fully support the idea,” “somewhat supportive of the idea,” “neutral,” “somewhat unsupportive of the idea,” “do not support the idea” and “no answer.”

Group distributes ‘polling guide’

At the beginning of the meeting, Chaplick addressed the fact that some attendees had distributed handouts recommending which facilities scenarios participants should support.

“If there’s anything on your table that indicates a certain way to respond to a question, we did not provide that,” she told the crowd. “We understand there’s some folks that would like to share their opinions broadly, and that was not intended to be a table handout.”

At least one of the documents in question was a “polling guide” distributed by a group calling itself “LASD Families for Public Education,” which listed positions on each facilities option.

Peipei Yu, one of the parents who helped distribute the guide, said she personally passed it out to people who she knew and had expressed a desire for help sorting through the dozens of proposals.

“I think people just used it as a reference to the extent that they found helpful,” she said.

The double-sided sheet recommended that attendees choose “do not support the idea” for 47 options and “fully support” for eight.

Those eight facilities scenarios were the ones that received the highest percentages of support from the crowd at Monday’s workshop. Four of the choices received majority support and all involved placing at least some of the charter school’s students on the 10th school site at the corner of Showers Drive and California Street in Mountain View that the school district is in the process of purchasing.

However, Bullis Charter School officials said they do not favor being placed on the 10th site because it is on the periphery of the district, according to a list of “Points for Consideration” charter school officials submitted and Chaplick presented at the beginning of the workshop. The school district also has a list of “guiding principles” that Chaplick reviewed with the audience.

Analyzing the data

According to demographic information collected, 64% of respondents were parents of children in the school district, while 25% were charter school parents. Another 8% didn’t have school-age children and 2% had children enrolled in some combination of district schools, Bullis Charter and private or parochial school.

MIG representatives will analyze the data to determine the level of support for each scenario from different demographic groups, Chaplick said.

The facilities solutions presented Monday were all generated at the three charrettes the district hosted in September and October. At those meetings, table groups of approximately eight people reviewed previously considered facilities options and brainstormed new ideas. They then recorded a list of the possibilities that members of the table would support.

Representatives from MIG consolidated the proposals, only including ideas that were based on properties the district currently owns or the 10th site. The result was the list of 55 options, split among six categories based on grade level and location.

Some of the options would implicitly require changing attendance boundaries or facilities, Chaplick said, noting that the district’s board of trustees will consider those factors when reviewing the options. Nonfacilities-related ideas weren’t included in the workshop process, but Chaplick said they will also be shared with the district’s board.

Participants also ranked their level of support for three charter school enrollment cap options: a cap of 900 students, 1,111 students and no cap. A 900-student cap received 68% “fully support” and 2% “somewhat support,” 1,111 students saw 19% fully support and 11% somewhat support, and no cap was at 23% fully support and 2% somewhat support.

Monday’s meeting was the second workshop on charter school facilities. The first was held on Nov. 2 and drew a crowd of more than 200 people.

The third workshop is slated 6:30-8:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at Egan Junior High School, 100 W. Portola Ave. in Los Altos, with an open house for participants to review the different options at 6 p.m.

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