Mountain View Voice

News - July 5, 2013

Judge: LASD may split Bullis

Charter school officials not happy with ruling on two-campus solution

by Nick Veronin

In the latest decision in the ongoing legal battle between Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District, a judge ruled that the district has the right to split the charter school between two separate campuses — Egan and Blach.

In his ruling, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Mark H. Pierce wrote, "The court finds that there is no requirement that a school district provide an offer of facilities to a charter school only at contiguous sites. Rather, a school district may determine that more than one facility may be included in the offer as long as there are no other facilities available within the district."

While officials with Los Altos district hailed the decision, a member of Bullis' board had a number of objections to the ruling.

"No other schoolchild in the Los Altos School District is forced to go to a school that is located on two campuses," said Joe Hurd, a BCS board member. In the 2013-14 school year, Bullis' 625 students will be split between the campuses of Egan Junior High School and Blach Intermediate School.

The split campus solution is "making it extremely difficult to figure out how the schedules will work," Hurd said. "Whether it's legal or not, I don't think it passes anyone's test of fairness."

But according to Doug Smith, president of LASD's board of trustees, the district has no other option. The district, he said, is overcrowded and has been searching diligently for a suitable location for two new campuses — one for an additional LASD site and a place to put Bullis.

Under California law, according to the rules set out in Proposition 39, all school districts are required to provide "reasonably equivalent" facilities to charter schools located within their boundaries. Each year, charters and districts in the state go through a process determining whether reasonable equivalency continues to exist. Bullis and LASD have been at odds for years now over this very issue — with the district arguing it is doing its best to give BCS a fair shake and the charter school disagreeing vehemently.

In the latest iteration of the years-long legal battle, BCS has argued that it is illegal for the district to split its school between two campuses. But district officials, like Smith, have said that, at the moment, there is no other answer.

"We're looking at every conceivable option," Smith said, noting that he doesn't believe the current Egan-Blach split campus is ideal. "Ideal to me is we find some more land to fill some more campuses."

According to Smith, the district is currently responsible for providing space to around 5,000 kids, including BCS students. The last time the district had that many students was in the early 1970s, he said, and back then the district had 12 campuses — four more than its current nine campusus.

All that is true, Hurd acknowledged. But he said he wasn't entirely convinced the district was doing everything it could to come up with a solution to its space problem.

"Since February, LASD and BCS have not had a face-to-face meeting," Hurd said — even though the charter school has been calling for such a conference, he said. "Because the district has refused to meet with BCS we've never had the opportunity to have a real conversation about real facilities."

Smith said that Bullis and LASD will have just such a conversation very soon. The two parties are scheduled to begin talks in August to see if they can manage to agree on a facilities agreement for the 2014-15 school year.

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