Litigation and disputes over facilities may be a thing of the past for Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District. On Wednesday, board members from both BCS and LASD finished drafting a five-year agreement that would address a range of contentious issues between the two.
Among other things, the agreement would end all pending and future litigation against each other and open up room for BCS to expand.
The terms of the agreement require both BCS and LASD to agree on student enrollment projections for the next five years, which includes annual enrollment caps 5 percent above those projections. For example, BCS can have no more than 945 students in the 2018-19 school year -- 45 students above the projected 900.
To clear up issues regarding use of facilities, the agreement outlines what facilities BCS can use throughout the day at Blach and Egan Middle schools. For the shared-use facilities not exclusive to BCS, there is a schedule to dictate which school has access and at what times. The charter school's access to facilities will change over the years, and those changes are listed in the agreement.
One of those changes includes the use of 9,500 square feet at Blach now occupied by the Stepping Stones Preschool. According to the agreement, LASD will no longer lease facilities to the preschool as of the 2015-16 school year to make room for BCS. All the space left by the preschool will be used for BCS facilities except for the parking lot, which will be shared.
The terms of the agreement also call for an end to all current and future lawsuits against each other over things like CEQA requirements and equitable access to district facilities under Proposition 39.
Tamara Logan, LASD board president, was one of the board members who drafted the deal. She said the agreement as a "package," rather than its individual components, was important in bringing both sides together and resolving past issues. She said there was a lot of give-and-take; neither party got everything it wanted, and concessions were made on both sides.
Logan said one of the easiest terms for BCS and LASD to agree on was ending litigation.
"Phasing out litigation was mutual; nobody wants to keep spending millions on legal fees," Logan said.
John Phelps, chairman of the BCS board, declined to comment on any individual component of the agreement, and said he'll let the wording in the document speak for itself. He said the draft was the result of a concerted effort and commitment by both BCS and the school district representatives.
"A lot of hard work went into to this, with consistent goals for both sides," Phelps said.
Joe Seither, a member of the LASD Citizens' Advisory Committee for Finance and a member of the Huttlinger Alliance for Education, said the agreement draft took him by surprise. The outcome was much better than past mediation, and the "breadth" of the agreement is good, he said.
"I'm very encouraged, and I think it's a great step forward," Seither said.
Like Logan, Seither was happy to see big concessions from both sides, including the decision for BCS to end litigation against LASD.
"The charter school dropping litigation is huge," Seither said. "They have a very strong legal team and budget, and it's a big deal for them to stand down legally."
The agreement also includes a provision that BCS and LASD cooperate to place a bond measure on the November 2014 ballot that would help finance more school facilities to accommodate increasing enrollment for both parties. LASD is slated to finish the draft and board members are expected to vote on it at the regularly scheduled Aug. 4 meeting.
The five-year agreement will take the place of annual facilities use agreements, which caused issues in the past. A disagreement over the FUA last year led to the school district's changing the locks on charter school classrooms at Blach for 10 days, causing parent and teacher protests.
But with a five-year plan, both sides agree there should be fewer problems. Phelps said the long-term plan would "alleviate a burden on both parties, and place more focus on students."
Both the BCS and LASD boards will welcome public comment on July 28 before voting to approve the final agreement. The full agreement can be found here.