The Los Altos School District unanimously voted to approve its final facilities offer to present to Bullis Charter School, disappointing a large number of parents who went to the board meeting Monday night to demand equal facilities for their school.
Randall Kenyon, the district's assistant superintendent of business services, read the final offer Monday, which includes one additional portable building for a teaching classroom, two additional non-teaching spaces and two hours a week for use of the track, gym and tennis courts at campus, where Bullis Charter School .
The charter school, which opened in 2004, is entitled to “reasonably equivalent” facilities under the state's Proposition 39, a 2000 initiative that required, among other changes, that charter schools be provided facilities by public school districts. According to the state Department of Education’s website, “Proposition 39 requires school districts to provide local charter schools with facilities that are sufficient and reasonably equivalent to other buildings, classrooms or facilities in the district.”
The district and BCS have been in litigation in one form or another almost the entire time the charter school has been open, according to Doug Smith, clerk on the Los Altos School District board.
The two entities are in litigation regarding the facilities, after BCS filed an appeal last year.
The district has “consistently complied with Proposition 39," Smith said, adding that "'reasonably equivalent’ is the key phrase here. Nothing is going to be exact.”
Trustee Tamara Logan told BCS parents Monday night, “Given that we don’t have more land to hand out, I don’t know what other decision we can make. Judges have told you over and over again that we are meeting the law. It may not look or feel equitable, but it is.”
Ken Moore, BCS board chairman, said the charter school expects to add about 74 more students next year and will expand to include an eighth grade. The seventh grade was added in this school year.
Smith countered that the actual numbers will likely fall short of the charter school's 454 projected forecast. Instead, the district figures the charter school will grow from 381 to 409 students, Smith said.
Moore said he didn't think the district's offer of an additional portable building will be sufficient.
“We’re just trying to get our students treated fairly,” he said.
“It’s not the world’s most attractive school,” he said. “But the parents that go there are there for their students to experience the program. It comes to a point where the inequity in the facilities hampers the program.”
Parent Jennifer Jacobsen told the board that she noticed the difference in facilities for the charter school, because her children attended Covington Elementary School last year before transferring. “I just ask that you look at our request, because it really does make a difference in the education," she said.
Some said the district doesn't treat the charter-school families fairly.
“Personally, I feel like they chose to punish the families of the charter school, because the charter school is competition," said Janet Medlin, a mother of two children at BCS. "Nobody likes to be challenged, so I don’t blame the district. If I were them, I wouldn’t want the competition, either.”
Medlin said she signed up her boys in the charter school, because of its unique instruction and integrated lesson plans throughout the different subjects.
“Despite our success, the district refuses to treat our students fairly,” Moore said. In the past, the school has had to forego use of its library and use the building for a classroom, instead.
BCS, however, is actually not on the low end of the district's facilities, said Smith.
“A lot of folks are unaware that BCS is not the best or worst in the district,” Smith said. “For example, we have a couple of schools with less blacktop space, like Loyola or Santa Rita. You can’t perfectly match things.”
The district needs to give the charter school its approved final offer by April 1. Then, BCS has until May 1 to give a written response.