At first glance it made sense for the district, which also serves more than 1,000 Mountain View students, to close Bullis Elementary due to declining enrollment and the need to cut costs. District trustees believed students from the Bullis-Purissima attendance area, in the heart of the district's wealthiest area, could be accommodated at other schools, even though those other schools are a considerable distance from the Hills.
But while the closure of Bullis saved money in the short run, it set events in motion that sparked a nasty fight with deep-pocketed parents, whose opposition ultimately will cost the district at least $10 million to renovate Bullis — for starters. In addition, it required a redistricting scheme that is extremely unpopular in the district's northern sector, where many Mountain View children have been displaced.
Perhaps the Los Altos board's biggest regret today is its failure to gauge the determination of Los Altos Hills parents to keep an elementary school in their own neighborhood. The first indicator was the community's strong campaign to put the charter school at the closed elementary school's campus, a request that was turned down by the district in the summer of 2004. (The charter school ultimately was granted space in a collection of portable classrooms at Egan Middle School in Los Altos.)
But today, four years later, the tables have turned. Hills parents are the driving force behind Bullis Charter, one of the most sought-after schools in the county. And due to its over-subscribed status (it accepts only one in six applicants), the school recently received approval to reserve a good number of seats for residents in the Bullis-Purissima attendance area, a decision by the county Board of Education that has some LASD parents and board members crying foul.
Outraged parents and board members have said that intend to get a legal analysis of the county board's decision. But the state charter school regulations appear to be on the side of Bullis Charter.
But that's not the half of it. In the fallout from Los Altos Hills' failed effort to form a new school district of its own, LASD has promised to renovate the old Bullis-Purissima campus at a cost of around $10 million. The cost will likely delay other district construction projects, and it resulted in an unpopular redistricting plan made necessary, in part, by the need to bring more students to Bullis.
The Bullis legacy cannot be one that LASD will remember fondly. Its moves regarding the elementary school have failed in virtually every respect, and set in motion a redistricting and rebuilding plan that will cost the district for years to come.
This story contains 536 words.
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