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.”