BCS facilities workshops wrap up, focus turns to path ahead

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Zoe Morgan/Town Crier
More than 250 people filled Egan Junior High School’s multipurpose room last week for the final workshop on finding long-term facilities for Bullis Charter School.

The third and final workshop on Bullis Charter School facilities drew more than 250 people last week, filling the tables set up in Egan Junior High School’s multipurpose room and spilling over onto bleachers in the back.

However, the crowd didn’t rival the 400-plus people who showed up for the previous workshop Nov. 4. That overflow crowd is what led the Los Altos School District to schedule the Nov. 18 meeting.

Joan Chaplick of MIG, the firm the school district hired to oversee the public outreach campaign, ran each workshop. Attendees used handheld clickers to rate their level of support for 55 charter school facilities configurations, options generated by participants in the three charrettes held in September and October.

At last week’s meeting, five options garnered a majority either “fully” or “somewhat” in support of the idea. Each of those scenarios involved placing at least part of Bullis Charter School on the 10th school site in Mountain View, which the school district is in the process of purchasing.

However, charter school officials said they do not favor being placed on the 10th site, according to a list of points for consideration they submitted and Chaplick presented at the workshop. The school district also has a list of “guiding principles” Chaplick reviewed with the audience.

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

Participants also answered demographic questions, including their age, the city they live in and their relationship to the district. According to the data collected at the third workshop, 51% of respondents were parents of children who attend district schools, while 17% were charter school parents. Another 23% didn’t have school-age children, and 6% had children enrolled in some combination of district schools, Bullis Charter School and private or parochial school. A final 2% chose “other.”

The path forward

Now that the workshops are complete, Chaplick and her team at MIG are working to create a final report that will be delivered to the district’s board of trustees in January.

“Our report is to thoroughly document the process,” Chaplick said. “We want to provide transparency. We want to provide a compilation of all the materials, all the comments, all the feedback that we received, but do it in a way that is organized and useful to the district.”

The final report will present the data from each workshop separately and combined as a total. Of the 55 facilities scenarios, the ones that received comparatively greater support will be analyzed further, Chaplick said.

Many of the options found few backers. At the second workshop, more than 30 of the choices drew opposition from more than 90% of the crowd.

For those options that fared better across the three workshops, MIG will analyze the data to determine how different demographic groups responded. Chaplick said it is important for the board to know whether the support is coming only from one source or if it cuts across different groups.

“What we want to be able to see is on certain topics, how homogenous are the support levels? Or is it a mix?” she said. “What are the ideas where we had LASD parents, BCS parents and some residents all on board?”

From what Chaplick has seen of the data so far, she said a greater proportion of people selected the “fully support” and “do not support” options than in other places MIG has conducted polling.

“Most people either ‘fully supported’ or ‘fully did not support.’ We didn’t have a lot of shades of gray in this process,” she said. “Usually we see a little bit more subtlety in the results. That’s just something that stood out.”

Once the final report is submitted in January, the trustees will begin culling the options, board president Jessica Speiser said.

“There were 55 solutions, so we’ll definitely be lopping some stuff off at the beginning pretty quickly,” Speiser said.

Options will be eliminated if they received almost no support or are not in line with the district’s “guiding principles,” Speiser added. That list of guiding principles prioritizes protecting the district’s long-term viability and its “small neighborhood school model,” as well as providing long-term facilities for the charter school and being responsive to community concerns, including minimizing traffic and ensuring student safety.

Speiser said she knows the community wants the process to be transparent.

“We plan to have a bunch of public meetings,” she said. “A lot of our work, as we cull through the data, will be done so the community can attend.”

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