It's the thought on the minds of parents across Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, the day after hundreds packed the Covington multipurpose room to speak their minds and hear others speak on the .
No one quite knows the answer yet, but with the unanimous vote of the Los Altos School District Board (LASD) approving its 2012-13 offer to Bullis Charter School (BCS), the ball lands in the charter school's court.
The offer would place BCS on two campuses, K-6 at Egan Jr. High School, and Grades 7-8 at Blach Intermediate School. Members of the Los Altos School District board described the offer as an interim solution and have said the body needed time to come up with a long-term solution. Bullis Charter School supporters said they had waited long enough.
Under the state regulations stemming from Prop. 39, the enabling legislation that says districts must offer "reasonably equivalent" facilities space, BCS has until March 1 to respond to the preliminary proposal. The district has until April 1 to make its final offer. The charter school has until May 1 to respond whether it will occupy the offered space.
It has been clear that the Bullis board, its principal, and many of its parents who spoke are deeply dissatisfied. The question is whether there will be another lawsuit, something that remains an open question, 24 hours later.
On Sunday, the same weekend the district posted its preliminary offer on its website, BCS principal and superintendent Wanny Hersey sent parents a letter describing her disappointment and frustration.
“LASD has already indicated that implementing change takes time, but BCS children have been waiting far too long. BCS looks forward to working with LASD to minimize unnecessary disruption to local families; however, BCS will not accept another year of illegal discrimination against its children,” Hersey wrote in her letter.
Los Altos School District trustees have said they want to begin ad-hoc discussions that would help free dialogue to reach a solution.
Monday night's deeply felt, passionate opinions gave a sense of how big a challenge that will be.
“There has been a lot of talk on what BCS wants, often misleading or inflammatory. All I want is for all public school students to be treated equally,” said BCS parent Buffy Poon.
“I saw this board’s latest facility offer and I’m a little disappointed that this still discriminates against our children," added Poon, whose email to Santa Clara County Board of Education trustee had for the school to do more outreach in underprivileged communities.
More than 30 speakers commented on the resolution and the offer itself. A large number were BCS parents or supporters who expressed opinions similar to Poon's—that the long wait amounted to discrimination against 493 charter school children (or 466, depending on which projections are used) who are also public school children.
Parents of children in the rest of the nearly 5,000-student district have been expressing fears for weeks that a state appeals court decision would mean one of the district schools would be shut down in order to comply with Prop. 39. The Sixth District Court of Appeal overturned a lower court and found in BCS' favor in an Oct. 27 published opinion. It found that the school board had not properly assessed all the available district space in order to calculate an offer for "reasonably equivalent" facilities. On Jan. 19, the state Supreme Court refused to hear LASD's petition for a review.
Parents whose children attend district schools said they were thankful the district did not include plans to close a school in order to make its offer. Others said they were anxious for a long-term solution. Without that, much is at stake, some said.
“The kind of damage closing a school would cause a school community is pretty extensive,” said Jim Cairns, a parent of children at Covington. “If you need to go to court to defend this offer, I want you do that.”
BCS board members contend that the school district should have made an offer to provide a single campus for K-8 grades, after the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
The split campus offer did not solve any issue at hand, however, nor did it assist the Bullis in providing its program, many BCS supporters said.
“Although that’s different than the configuration of the LASD district schools, that’s kind of the point. We do it differently. The choice is a good thing,” said Tanya Raschke, who handles communications for the Bullis Booster Club Executive Board. “Splitting out seventh and eighth grades kills our middle school program. Period.”
The specifics of the district's offer include putting a projected 439 K-6 students on the Egan campus site and a district-projected 27 7-8 students on the Blach camp site. Also presented in the offer, shown in slides Monday night by Randall Kenyon, assistant superintendent of business services, is what the district says is more teaching space per (square footage per average daily attendance) at BCS than at comparable LASD schools.
That element was described as a way, under Prop. 39, to try to meet the "reasonably equivalent" standard when acreage was so limited, district representatives said.
"We have intentionally over-allocated on the classroom space and that is done in attempt to balance all components in the offer,” said LASD board vice-president Doug Smith, who is the board liaison who meets with the BCS board on facilities negotiations.
Kenyon and the board reiterated during its presentation that splitting these two campuses right now is the least disruptive solution. Student safety concerns under Prop. 39 actually favor using two sites if necessary, Kenyon added.
“We’ve concluded that no single site has all the facilities that BCS claims it is entitled to and even if one site did, we cannot give that site to BCS without giving preference to its number of students to ours,” said Kenyon.
BCS parent Courtenay Corrigan, however, called the offer presented “just ridiculous.” She and other parents say that housing that many students at the Egan site without dramatically enlarging the space is simply not compliant with Prop. 39.
“It is not a simple problem and I struggle when people suggest we are sitting on our hands and purposefully being incompliant, said Smith, who says he spends a lot of time thinking about the issue as part of the Prop. 39 committee.
"That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Long-term options that have been discussed have been everything from buying or leasing land to sharing schools, to offering BCS an entire campus.
“We are hoping for a long-term solution that is mutually agreed upon. Ideally that is a new location we can find together, which we will discuss with BCS in the coming months,” said Mark Goines, LASD board president, over the weekend.
And it had better start soon, many think.
“I encourage more interaction between the two boards to try to find a resolution that would please both,” said parent Lucy Mangas.
“My main concern with the BCS situation is the potential disruption of this community that would affect many families and the students and the great schools we have achieved.”