Mountain View Voice

News - February 1, 2013

Bullis agrees to two-site solution — with strings

Stipulations attached to 'big compromise' with LASD

by Nick Veronin

Bullis Charter School has agreed to what one official described as a "big compromise" in negotiations with the Los Altos School District — accepting the district's split-campus option for the charter, at least temporarily. But in return for their acquiescence on the dual-site option, BCS has asked for concessions from the district, to which district officials aren't likely to fully agree.

"Bullis Charter School has agreed to the basic framework of a split-campus proposal by the Los Altos School District as a possible short-term facilities solution if certain key parameters are met," Ken Moore, chair of the BCS board, announced in a statement on Jan. 23.

It might come as a surprise to those who have followed the debate that BCS would accept the option of running the charter school on two separate campuses, as officials there have continually dismissed the idea in the past. However, it isn't likely to surprise anyone if the "parameters" that Bullis has proposed turn out to be unacceptable to the Los Altos School District.

And it would appear that at least some of the things Bullis officials are asking for will not be handed over so easily from the district.

"I'm really pleased that they've made a statement that they'll accept what we've offered them already," said LASD board member Mark Goines. "But frankly, it's a little late in our process to ask for a bunch of new stuff."

Too late, Goines said, because the Jan. 23 announcement came just over a week before the district was required to make its yearly preliminary offer of facilities to the charter school. There won't be time for the district to fully consider whether it is possible to give BCS what it is asking for before the Feb. 1 preliminary offer deadline, he said.

On Jan. 28, at the LASD board meeting, the trustees voted to instruct LASD staff to draw up a preliminary offer of facilities that would cost the district about $300,000. That money would cover six portable buildings to be built on the two sites. Five of those portables would be erected at Blach Middle School and one would go at Egan Middle School.

The preliminary offer also dictates that Bullis' footprint would not expand on the Egan campus. However, in accepting the two-site solution, Bullis officials have proposed expanding the footprint of Bullis on the Egan campus, as well as new construction that would cost about $1 million at least, according to Doug Smith, president of the LASD board of trustees.

Bullis' plan also assumes that a preschool located on the Egan campus would be moved.

According to Smith, the charter is asking for quite a bit more than the district is prepared to give — even in exchange for accepting the two-campus option.

For his part, Moore acknowledged that further negotiation would surely need to occur if the two educational organizations were to come to an agreement based on the most recently proposed framework. "There's a lot more detail that needs to be worked out," Moore said.

Now that LASD's board of trustees has voted to move forward with the district's preliminary offer, it remains to be seen how Bullis will react once it is finalized. Bullis will have a month to consider the preliminary offer before officials there will have to return with requests for changes in March. After that, LASD will have another month to come up with a final facilities offer.

Meanwhile the two organizations continue to battle in court over previous years' facility offers. According to Moore, the charter school is willing to compromise on a temporary two-site solution until a permanent site can be found, because BCS wants to put an end to all the legal fighting.

It is certain that LASD would also like to see an end to the legal battles it has waged with the charter school. The question is whether this latest move will bring the two sides any closer to a resolution.

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