Six BCS facilities options set for further review

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Santa Rita School students walk home after school Tuesday (Feb. 11). One facilities scenario for Bullis Charter School could involve placing the charter school on Santa Rita's campus and having Santa Rita share a campus with Egan Junior High School.

The list of potential facilities options for Bullis Charter School has been whittled down once again. At a Feb. 10 meeting, the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees trimmed the list of options for further study from 13 to six.

Last month, the board reviewed 55 community-generated ideas and picked 13 for staff to analyze. Last week, the board reviewed a preliminary analysis of those options. The trustees eliminated some, consolidated and clarified others, and added a new scenario. The remaining six are:

  • BCS at 10th site with a neighborhood preference.
  • BCS split between the 10th site and Egan Junior High School.
  • BCS at Egan. Egan moves to the 10th site.
  • BCS at Egan. Egan moves to Covington School. Covington is closed and attendance boundaries are redrawn. Boundaries could also change for Egan and Blach Intermediate School. A new elementary school opens at the 10th site.
  • BCS at Covington. Covington is closed and attendance boundaries are redrawn. A new elementary school opens at the 10th site.
  • BCS at an elementary school site. That elementary school moves to share the campus of either Egan or Blach. A new elementary school opens at the 10th site. The potential elementary school sites discussed at last week's meeting were Santa Rita, Oak or Loyola.

The board has planned a study session to review the six proposals at 6:30 p.m. March 12. District staff intends to spend the coming weeks conducting a more thorough analysis of each scenario. If staff members complete their evaluation more quickly, the study session may be held sooner.

“These are six high level ‘shapes’ of solutions,” said district board president Bryan Johnson in an interview. “What we asked staff to do was flesh them out, figure out how many variables could be tweaked within each.”

According to Superintendent Jeff Baier, the review of each scenario will include an evaluation of operating and capital expenses, the timeline for implementation and projected student populations at each campus, among other considerations.

Charter school board president Joe Hurd referred questions about the facilities options to Alan Simpson, the school's communications director. Simpson said Bullis Charter School was not yet ready to say which facilities options it would support and would need more information from the district first.

“For BCS to make any response to the proposals remaining, we would need some of the same things district leaders have asked for – more information about population projections, more estimates on actual costs and a more reliable understanding of how the math really works here,” Simpson said.

Analyzing scenarios

At last week’s meeting, Baier presented an analysis of each of the 13 options the board had asked staff to review. The analyses were based on a set of guiding principles the district board is using, which include protecting the district’s small, neighborhood school model; providing long-term facilities for the charter school; and protecting the district’s long-term viability.

District staff grouped the 13 options into five categories based on whether they involved adding, closing or relocating schools, and whether school sites would be shared. The trustees then went through each grouping.

The first category had only one option: place Bullis Charter School entirely on the 10th school site with an enrollment preference for those who live in the surrounding neighborhood. The site sits at the corner of California Street and Showers Drive in Mountain View.

A deal between the district and city of Mountain View specified that any charter school placed on the site must have a preference for neighborhood students. However, the charter school has said it doesn’t favor being placed on the 10th site, entirely or in part, or having a 10th-site neighborhood preference.

Johnson said he supported removing the option from further consideration, because he said the charter school would be too large to fit on the site. However, the other four trustees didn’t agree, so the scenario remained.

The trustees collapsed the second category down from three specific ideas to one broad plan: Place a portion of Bullis Charter on the 10th site and have the rest share Egan’s campus.

The third category consisted of four options all involving the charter school sharing space with a new district school on the 10th site. Three of the four plans also involved the charter school sharing space at Egan. Trustees Jessica Speiser, Vaishali Sirkay and Steve Taglio all supported removing the entire category based on the level of site sharing that would be required, causing the four options to be dropped.

The fourth category contained only one plan: Place Bullis Charter School at Egan and move Egan to the 10th site. That essentially mirrors a proposed 10-year agreement the school district and charter school announced last spring. After outcry from parents, including protests outside schools, the district’s board tabled the measure and embarked on a process to gather public feedback.

Vladimir Ivanovic was the one trustee who publicly opposed the 10-year agreement. At last week’s meeting, Ivanovic said he supported immediately removing it as an option.

“You realize, you understand that the reason why we’re doing this community engagement is because we considered this before,” Ivanovic said. “So, we want to go through this pain and agony again?”

Johnson replied that he didn’t think eliminating the scenario at this stage would avoid any pain or agony. The other three trustees agreed to keep the option in the mix, at least for now.

The final category comprised four options that all required closing a school. Ivanovic said he wouldn’t support any plan that called for closing or relocating a school, unless the community was OK with it.

Trustees decided to eliminate two options that didn’t involve using the 10th site, which the district purchased in December. The remaining two were clarified and retained. One would place Bullis Charter at Egan, move Egan to Covington, close Covington and put a new campus on the 10th site. The other would place the charter school at Covington, close Covington and put a new campus on the 10th site.

Finally, the trustees decided to add an option. Speiser said that though she didn’t like the idea of sharing sites, she supported considering the potential of two district schools sharing a site with each other, rather than with the charter school. Specifically, she proposed having district staff review the possibility of placing the charter school on an elementary school campus and moving the elementary school to either Blach or Egan, whichever was closer. The three potential schools discussed were Santa Rita, Oak and Loyola.

Taglio pointed out that the cost of operating both a combined school site, plus a new school on the 10th site may be prohibitively expensive. However, Sirkay and Johnson bothultimately supported at least learning more about the idea.

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