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Bullis Accepts Split Campuses For Short-Term

BCS Board Chair Ken Moore proposes baseline facilities the school needs to operate on two campuses, and calls on a working group of both boards to meet publicly to hammer out a workable solution.

 

Seeking a game-changer, Bullis Charter School (BCS) announced it was accepting a split campus arrangement for the short-term, if facilities were sufficient to run both sites separately from one other.

“We are going to seek a balanced Egan-Blach split for BCS if Covington cannot be made to work,” Bullis Charter School Board Chairman Ken Moore said Wednesday. He was referring to the Los Altos School District's expected offer to split Bullis Charter School onto the Egan Jr. High and Blach Intermediate School campuses in a yet-to-be determined configuration. Covington School was BCS’ first choice.

He made his announcement during a BCS-hosted luncheon panel discussion aimed at influential community members. It featured Jed Wallace, the president of the California Charter School Association and David Patterson, a member of the Placer County Board of Education who has founded charter schools that shared campuses with school districts, and offered up encouragement that it was possible.

Parents and other community members responded hopefully. "I thought it was a reasonable proposal and I hope LASD will have a reasonable response," said which granted the charter to BCS. Millie Gee, a parent who had attended the luncheon commented on the Los Altos Town Crier's report Wednesday, "I applaud the BCS board for making lemonade out of lemons. I urge the two boards to work in a true spirit of cooperation to make this short term solution workable until a longer term solution can be found."

The proposal comes with disadvantages and costs for both Bullis, which would have to hire duplicative staff and deal with operational challenges, and the Los Altos School District, which provides the facilities.

It has a lot of advantages, however, Moore said:

“It doesn’t require a single LASD student to change schools, which is the Number One mantra. It doesn’t require district to close any district program on any site. It doesn’t require immediate spending of funds to acquire land. It allows time to see if the district’s prediction of large increase in enrollment occurs. Doesn’t disrupt the city project at Hillview. It doesn’t require a land swap with the City of Los Altos.”

Moore proposed a working team from each side, to meet “intensively and transparently to design a mutually agreeable solution at both Egan and Blach.”

On that matter, BCS has some initial ideas in its own proposal, particularly for Blach:

  • Add enough portables to run “a real school” on the Blach campus, capable of housing a teachers lounge, teachers work area, office area and food service area, enough bathrooms
  • Add a parking lot in an area that is sloping lawn
  • Move the Stepping Stones preschool further west on the campus
  • Add a playground structure

If it sounded like a lot, Moore pulled out a Google Maps satellite view of Blach School in Jan. 2004 when it operated as a camp school while renovations were being done to other campuses.  “It can be done, and it already has been done.”

Without attaining critical mass of students and separately-functioning campuses, BCS could end up much like it did this year, giving up its library and dense-packing its school because shuttling staff and students back and forth between the two campuses wasn’t workable. 

If the two boards’ teams can meet in a parallel to the Prop. 39 process, hopefully it can rise above the adversarial Prop. 39 process, Moore said.

“We request that LASD seize upon the opportunity to make this short term solution workable, and engage with BCS on a permanent in-district solution, so this community can put this issue to rest. “

Moore said his next step is to send the LASD board its proposal in a letter.

LASD Board President Doug Smith, who was not there and had only read a short report in the Los Altos Town Crier, was cautious. “We're going to have to sit down and figure it all out,” he said. “We have to evaluate with respect to our kids.”

jolie January 24, 2013 at 02:52 PM
I guess I'm jaded but my first thought was - why make a PR stunt out of this? The luncheon and the announcement by Ken Moore was planned for some time yet nothing was said about agreement in the BCS Board retreat last week. The time to agree that they would accept the Egan/Blach split was during the public Board meeting, not at a private luncheon for "community leaders". If there was an agreement by the BCS board it should have been made in a Brown Act-compliant meeting. I applaud their willingness to try to make the best of the facilities plan but this PR stunt leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
comment1320 January 24, 2013 at 03:59 PM
Perhaps it is time that Doug Smith acknowledges that BCS kids are his responsibility as well -- they are all public school students. It is time to stop discriminating against families who have made the decision to send their children to BCS, a public school authorized under the laws of California. The question should not be how does if impact "our kids" -- meaning LASD but rather what is right for ALL public school students. Until the LASD Board is truly able to do that, there will be no resolution.
John Radford January 24, 2013 at 04:00 PM
To Jolie I attended this meeting and did not consider it a PR stunt. The BCS Board has been reaching out to LASD and their response has been to simply attend their public meetings. In their last meeting, LASD announced their preference for the split campuses despite BCS's Prop 39 request for the Covington campus I applaud BCS because they have now embraced this option but also wanted to communicate what they thought was necessary to make it work. Quite honestly, the Blach space offered BCS for this school year was unworkable by most people's standards So the challenge for the LASD board is do they proceed with the Prop 39 offer by their rigid space standards or do they stretch a bit to try to accomodate their District kids going to BCS. Clearly, the proposed BCS configuration at Blach is going to impose some additional hardships on that school. By the way, in this meeting, we also got a history lesson about Prop 39. Although it has been heavily criticized over its reasonably equivalent language, it has also enabled all public school districts in California to raise billions of dollars in local bond money for badly needed infrastructure. According to David Patterson, between 15 and 18 billion dollars has been raised since the passage of Prop 39
Tamara M Fagin January 24, 2013 at 04:06 PM
I guess I'm just optimistic but my first thought is - HOORAY! This sounds like progress. My understanding of the last public meeting on this topic was that Doug Smith and/or the "staff" were going to work on a split-campus proposal for BCS by 2/1. It sounds like the BCS leadership is willing to talk about this as a short-term proposal. Isn't that something we should all be happy about? Surely you can't expect them to stick it out on Egan's campus while a bond initiative is floated, a new school is built, etc.? This is not fair to them or the folks at Egan and those who live in the Egan neighborhood. My daughter will be a 7th grader at Egan in the fall of 2014. I sincerely hope we have a short and long-term deal by then.
Joan J Yawn January 24, 2013 at 04:15 PM
Jolie J Strong's comment speaks "volumes" about why this has been going on for so "long". It's hard to think "win-win" when your first thought is always "the other side is trying to screw us". (Oh drat, now I'm quoting every other word.... just like an SNL skit)
AlmondParent January 24, 2013 at 04:33 PM
Personally, I like this proposal. The Egan camp could be used for 94022 BCS students, the Blach campus could be used for 94024 students. Two parrallel K-8 campuses could be created and our community still has its small schools (with more room to grow if there is still demand in our community for BCS programs). BCS can also finally become more of a neighborhood school for its students, which is what everyone wants. I think it could be an elegant long term solution for our community if we spent some resources fixing up Blach to make it a workable solution. It might mean more space to BCS in order to create two 'reasonably equivalent' campuses, but since LASD is forcing them to split up their school in two locations, it seems like a fair trade-off.
Fed Up Resident January 24, 2013 at 04:52 PM
What about the 94040 students? Or the 94306 students, or the 94301 students, 94041 students? Don't be so naïve that you think the enrollment numbers are about Los Altos children only , this is an open enrollment school recruiting aggressively to reach their projected numbers. Glad to finally see the faces with the names, although the captions seemed to be missing at the head table photo. And how soothing to see the current and former Mayors at the luncheon, their insight and knowledge must have been electrifying.
Joan J. Strong January 24, 2013 at 05:20 PM
Indeed. The rationale was that, since charter schools would create the need for more school facilities (since students are not "fungible" as I've explained), the law also made it easier to build more facilities. Choice costs money, so the law makes it easier to get that money. Now to step 2: we need to find two more campuses. The first should be a neighborhood school for NEC. That neighborhood must travel too far to go to school. This isn't about raw capacity, it's about geography. The second should be a "special" campus for special programs and flexibility e.g. BCS. The poorer school district I grew up in had one of these--why can't Los Altos afford one? Third, we need to replace all of our portables with permanent buildings, making sure we have plenty of bathrooms and other facilities. Let's get the plan together and pass the bond. It will pass by a landslide. We can all afford a few hundred dollars more per year in property taxes, and our home values will pay off a hundred fold.
Joan J. Strong January 24, 2013 at 05:27 PM
Tamara, the only way we could get a campus that quickly would be a for BCS to self-site. Since they are a charter school, they have flexibility that normal schools do not. They have not shown much interest in this in the past, however. The one other possibility is bridge financing, which is higher risk--but again the BCS board could possibly help with this financing and reduce the risk to an acceptable level. This is less likely though. It's likely, then, that this arrangement will be in place for 2-3 more years. Egan is the top-rated Jr. High school in the State. You daughter will be fine :-). Unless BCS grows drastically in the next two years, this new plan will take a lot of pressure off of Egan.
L.A. Chung (Editor) January 24, 2013 at 05:28 PM
@Fed Up Resident: Thanks for pointing out I missed the captions for the panel. I'll get those on there.
Joan J. Strong January 24, 2013 at 05:40 PM
AP -- BCS is not a "neighborhood school" and they don't want to be. This is not a criticism of BCS--and I'm sure the BCS board would agree with me here. Charter schools are district-wide choice schools. Anybody can apply to BCS and does, and thus they get applications from all over our District, and thus they get enrollment from all over our district. BCS, like any charter school or any "special" or "choice" school run by LASD, is by definition a commuter school, not a neighborhood school. I agree we should float a bond and replace temporary structures with permanent buildings for our ALL of our schools. More facilities will allow us more flexibility to handle BCS or whatever else comes along.
94040 resident January 24, 2013 at 07:03 PM
Almond Parent and Fed Up Resident. Significant Parts of the 94040 zip code of Mountain View are part of the LASD district. The Monroe neighborhood of Palo Alto is also part of the LASD district. There are people in both these areas (lots in the case of 94040) who go to BCS and lots who are in the LASD district. So what exactly are you fed up with about the 94040 students, Fed Up Resident? And what is it that we are naive about 94040 students?
AlmondParent January 25, 2013 at 06:56 AM
Apologies for the oversight of MtnView residents. I just meant to imply that we could draw a line halfway thru the Disrict and easily feed those residents (north, south, east, west - whatever) and allow BCS to have 2 equivalent campuses. I am willing to trade-off more space to BCS and the ability for their school to keep growing in order to have peace in the community and not displace any LASD students. Before going down a path of unrelated quibbling, I want to reiterate that this proposal sounds like a solid compromise on both ends.
Fed Up Resident January 25, 2013 at 05:11 PM
94040 resident, you seem a bit sensitive, I was actually pointing out that these are LASD students, the Fed Up part is the lawsuits and entitlement mentality of those who run the Lawsuit School. The arrogance to insist on closing a neighborhood school to suit their needs and agenda , to grow to a point that 2 campuses are needed when the original idea was to remain small. What most LASD parents are not aware of there are a significant amount of out of district students attending the Lawsuit School who do reside in 94040, with the obvious implications and impact.

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