The Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School released a joint statement Friday afternoon announcing a two-year facilities agreement, buying more time to hammer out a long-term plan on where to house the charter school. The last-minute decision ends a divisive debate over facilities under the state's Proposition 39 process.
The agreement will leave Bullis Charter School with its current split between Egan Junior High and Blach Intermediate schools, while adding enough classroom space at both campuses to support a maximum of 1,111 students. The enrollment cap and the school's configuration will remain in place through the 2020-21 school year.
Previously, the district had offered to place hundreds of additional charter school students on a portion of a third district campus, Loyola Elementary. That proposal is effectively replaced by the new two-year plan.
The two-year agreement is largely a stop-gap that leaves unanswered the question of where to put Bullis Charter School in future years. For the last month, the district's school board has been weighing whether to accept a 10-year facilities agreement that would relocate Egan Junior High to a yet-to-be-built campus in Mountain View. Moving the junior high would allow Bullis Charter School to take over a majority of Egan's old campus on W. Portola Avenue in Los Altos.
The proposal was the result of 18 months of mediated negotiations behind closed doors, and faced stiff opposition when it was revealed on April 3. Parents blasted the proposal as a major concession to the charter school in exchange for very little, and criticized the lack of transparency in a process that took place almost entirely out of the public eye.
Faced with unrelenting backlash, school board members ultimately agreed not to vote on the long-term proposal, arguing it was worth taking another six months to either get community buy-in or find a better option.
Despite worries that the decision essentially kills the the long-term agreement, Los Altos school board president Jessica Speiser said in the joint statement that the school district will continue to work on getting it approved it next year. She added that the interim agreement also allows the charter school and the school district to focus on educating kids, rather than arguing over facilities.
"The two-year agreement will provide us the time and opportunity we need to engage the community in a transparent, thoughtful process as we work to finalize a longer-term facilities agreement," Speiser said in the statement.
Bullis board chair Joe Hurd took a similarly conciliatory tone in the statement, and said the charter school's leadership looks forward to finalizing a long-term agreement in early 2020.
April was a busy month for the Los Altos district as it sought to take in as much community feedback as possible, including 15 school site meetings, three school board meetings and ongoing office hours available at the district office, all before a planned vote on the 10-year agreement on April 29.
Bullis Charter School's board of directors voted 8-0 in favor of the 10-year agreement on April 23, and described the district's subsequent decision not to approve it as "disappointing."
The two-year deal isn't expected to cause problems for the long-term agreement, which envisioned keeping Egan in place for the next three or more years. The new school in Mountain View, planned to be built at the corner of Showers Drive and California Street in the San Antonio shopping center, won't be complete for years, and Egan could be relocated no sooner than 2023, according to thee terms of the agreement.