While lawmakers in the nation's capital continue to wait for their respective opponents to blink, a smaller-scale but equally vitriolic local political standoff may be showing signs of progress. But just as some pundits are predicting the government shutdown won't be resolved anytime soon, those familiar with the Los Altos School District-Bullis Charter School debate aren't likely to be holding their breath.
The possibly game-changing move comes in the form of a proposed school bond -- one that would raise enough money to build two school campuses in the Los Altos School District: one district school and one that would serve as a permanent campus for the charter school. Additionally, the district appears to be prepared to make significant short-term concessions to BCS, provided the charter school is willing to reciprocate.
Still, Doug Smith, president of the LASD board of trustees, and Joe Hurd, a Bullis board member, each told the Voice that nothing is final yet. Smith said that getting the LASD community on board with the school bond proposal would be challenging, considering how divided local families are over the years-long district-charter school fight. Hurd said there are still things the district needs to be willing to do, before he would consider the recent proposals genuine compromises.
Smith said that the "optics" of the bond will likely pose an issue with many in the community, as the measure has the potential of being interpreted as only being of benefit for Bullis.
For his part, Hurd has a problem with the idea that this is a "Bullis bond."
"The bond is not about Bullis," Hurd said of the proposed measure, which members of his board have been discussing with the LASD trustees. "We don't want it to be about Bullis. We are one of 10 public schools in the district. We want nothing more than our fair share."
Smith agreed that the bond isn't simply for the benefit of Bullis, explaining that the district is in need of an additional school. Given the district's student population, which has jumped in recent years, and the increase in development on the Mountain View-Los Altos border, Smith said LASD schools are overcrowded. The last time the district had as many students as it does now -- roughly 5,000 -- was in 1973, he said, and back then the district had 12 schools, while today it has only nine campuses.
In addition to the school bond proposal, the district has floated language for a potential "Resolution and Forward Path Agreement." The document, written in the form of a board resolution, indicates that the district is willing to meet many of Bullis' demands -- including increasing the number of students allowed at each Bullis site, giving the charter permission to build a playground and allowing younger BCS students to attend classes at Blach, which was originally reserved only for the charter's middle school-aged kids.
In exchange for these and other concessions, the district asks that Bullis -- among other things -- walk away from all of its lawsuits against LASD.
That's all well and good Hurd said, but noted that nowhere in the language for the potential resolution does LASD mention anything about walking away from the lawsuits it has initiated.
"We are very happy that after more than a year and a half of discussion and debate, LASD has finally acknowledged that its short-term facilities offers have been deficient and they've put it in writing," Hurd said. However he added: "It takes two to tango." Hurd said LASD has to be prepared to acknowledge that the litigation between the parties is running both ways before he'd be willing sign onto any resolution.
"I still think there's a lot of ground to cover," Hurd concluded. But the meetings about the potential resolution and school bond are "a good first step."