When the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees met last week, trustees discussed two issues that have been overshadowed by the pandemic: the 10th school site and the renewal of Bullis Charter School’s charter.
Newest LASD school
Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent of business services, updated trustees on the status of construction of LASD’s newest school at the Oct. 4 meeting.
Construction was last discussed in January 2020, just prior to the onset of the pandemic.
The district finalized the $155 million purchase of 11.65 acres of land at the corner of California Street and Showers Drive in Mountain View, where Kohl’s is located, in late 2019. Given the 10th site’s small size, Kenyon said it will have a different feel from the district’s other campuses.
“This site is not as large as our other suburban sites that were developed in the ’50s or early ’60s,” he said. “This lends itself to be a more ‘urban-like’ school. Based on preliminary design work, it will be a two-story building, housing as many as 900 students on our site.”
The deal includes funding from the city of Mountain View. LASD sold 2 acres of the land to the city for $20 million for a park, and the city has contributed an additional $23 million as part of a joint-use and funding agreement. The joint agreement includes public use of indoor and outdoor recreational spaces.
The park has been proposed for the corner of California and Pacchetti Way, but LASD and Mountain View officials have yet to determine its exact location. People using the park would not have to cross school grounds.
However, discussion of the park is premature. Clarissa Canady, an attorney hired by the district, said LASD is not yet prepared to provide the city of Mountain View with a park-ready site.
“There are tenants that occupy the site,” she said. “There are reciprocal parking agreements that burden the entire property currently. We’re not at the stage when we’re ready to break ground on developing the site today, so until we’re closer to that, moving in earnest toward that direction, we would not be in a position to convey to the city a park-ready site.”
BCS letter of concern
The Santa Clara County Board of Education, which oversees Bullis Charter School, approved a plan Oct. 6 addressing unequal enrollment representation at the charter school. The county board had sent BCS officials a “letter of concern” in May, stating that the school’s lack of low-income, Hispanic, English-learner and disabled students could put its charter at risk. BCS draws many of its students from within LASD boundaries, and LASD officials have long decried the charter school’s enrollment disparities.
The county board’s letter was intended as a warning to BCS to address the situation before its charter is up for renewal in 2023. See page 1 for full coverage of what the county board concluded.
At the LASD board meeting Oct. 4, trustees and staff gave their own take on the proposal from BCS.
LASD trustees were underwhelmed by the BCS proposal to change its enrollment lottery, giving higher priority to children who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch who reside within LASD, with a cap at 10% of openings at each grade level. A second 10% enrollment cap for similar students living outside district boundaries was also added, but ranked next to last in the tier of lottery preferences.
“In their notice of concern, the county has listed four demographics,” trustee Jessica Speiser said. “Only one of those demographics is included in this preference, which is the socioeconomically disadvantaged students. This leaves out Hispanics, special education and English-language learners.”
Trustee Bryan Johnson said he considered the 10% cap odd.
“It’s this kind of situation where the charter school body is trying to increase enrollment from underserved populations, but only a little bit, rather than trying to serve all the students who want to come,” he said. “I don’t think the 10% cap is really appropriate.”
The 10% cap should be eliminated altogether, according to trustee Vladimir Ivanovic.
Vaishali Sirkay, president of the board, echoed the thoughts of other trustees, recommending that the board consider sending a letter to BCS.
“We have been here before, and I think that we have gotten to the point where we are beyond good intentions and nice words,” she said.
The LASD board plans to revisit the matter at a future meeting.
“I think, given the history, I do feel it is different this time,” Sirkay said. “The county has issued a letter of concern that if BCS is not in compliance with the law, their charter can be revoked.”
Online board meetings
After a state order that allowed school board meetings to be conducted virtually expired Sept. 30, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill extending the provision to Dec. 31, 2023.
Baier said online board meetings must meet four conditions: offer a remote public option to attend; stop if broadcast problems occur; offer public comment in real time; and offer reasonable time for public comment.