Schools

New year, new decisions: LASD board faces busy calendar

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The Los Altos School District has yet to decide which school will ultimately sit on the 10th site it purchased last month. Currently, the land is occupied by a variety of businesses, above.

The new year is in full swing, and the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees is facing decisions on four distinct but interconnected issues: reaching an agreement on a long-term location for Bullis Charter School, choosing how to use a 10th school site the district purchased in Mountain View, deciding whether to move to a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school model and updating the district’s facilities master plan.

Where the district proposes to house the charter school appears likely to involve the 10th site, at least indirectly. And moving from the current seventh- and eighth-grade junior high system to a middle school model will affect each school’s population. The facilities master plan will incorporate these decisions.

“Even though … there are a lot of decisions to finalize over the next six months, we’re not starting from a blank piece of paper,” board president Bryan Johnson said. “This is the culmination of a three-year effort to really figure out the next 10, 15, 20 years of LASD facilities and how they’re going to be used.”

Johnson said since he joined the board three years ago, the district has been working in earnest on buying a 10th school site, which it formally acquired last month. According to Johnson, the intent is to reach a decision by the end of the school year on a long-term site for Bullis Charter School that both the district and charter school agree to.

In the absence of an agreement, the Proposition 39 process formally begins in November. Under Proposition 39, California charter schools can request “reasonably equivalent” facilities annually from a district for the students the district would serve if they didn’t attend the charter school.

Johnson said he wants the district’s board to zero in on a proposal, or at least a few options, by the end of March, so the public has time to digest it and weigh in.

“Based on our experience last spring, we need to come to some kind of proposal at least a couple months before the end of the school year, to give everyone time to really get comfortable with it,” he said.

Last spring, the school district and charter school announced a proposed 10-year agreement that would place Egan Junior High School on the 10th site and give the charter school the bulk of Egan’s campus. After the move sparked protests by parents, the district’s board tabled the deal and hired a consultant to run a community engagement process.

The board plans to receive a final report Monday from MIG, the hired consultant, on the community meetings held in the fall. At a series of three workshops in November, residents gave their feedback on 55 facilities options for the charter school.

“Obviously (administrators are) not going to be able to do an in-depth analysis of all 55 options,” Johnson said. “Just being at the workshops and looking at the data, it seems like there are a good number of those 55 that have approximately zero support, so we can probably prune a lot of those right off the top.”

At Monday’s meeting, Johnson said district staff will present information about what might be involved in analyzing the various options. He added that trustees have varying opinions about the appropriate process to analyze the choices.

10th-site status

As the board works to develop a proposal for housing the charter school, district staff continue to work on the process at the 10th site. The district purchased 11.65 acres at the corner of California Street and Showers Drive in Mountain View, two acres of which is being bought by the city of Mountain View for $20 million to use as a park.

At a Jan. 13 board meeting, Randy Kenyon, the district’s business director, presented a timeline for the 10th site that would have the school open in 2025. That assumes the district decides on the site’s use by the end of 2020.

Construction can’t begin before 2023, because the current tenants are permitted to stay until December 2022. During that time, the district will earn rental income. If all the tenants stay, that could equal up to $2.5 million annually, Kenyon said.

In the meantime, the district plans to undertake a number of steps. Currently, the city of Mountain View and the district are working to decide where the two-acre city park will be located.

In addition to the park, the city is contributing another $23 million for use of the school’s recreation areas outside of school hours. The district has agreed to have the spaces, with the exception of the gym, ready for city use by Sept. 30, 2024.

The district also plans to sell 610,000 square feet of unused development rights for $79.3 million to other developers, for use on projects throughout the city, a process known as a transfer of development rights (TDR). However, the district doesn’t receive the money until the developers’ projects receive final approval from the city of Mountain View.

Kenyon said attorneys are currently working on negotiating purchase agreements with the developers, and the district is monitoring the progress of the projects through the city approval process.

Over the coming months, the district will bring in a consultant to assist with the environmental review process. The consultant and district will collaborate on a project description, possibly with a couple of alternate plans for how the site may be used.

“There’s lots of moving parts – we have the TDR buyers, we have to do the … environmental review process, we have to get approval from the state, we have to do the master planning of the site with the city staff,” Kenyon said. “There’s a lot of pieces involved.”

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