The plan is to submit the application this fall, which should be enough of time to open its doors for the 2019-20 school year, according to Jennifer Anderson-Rosse, a Bullis administrator leading the charter's Mountain View school proposal.
"We really feel confident that we can get it approved and then open a school in fall 2019," she said.
The announcement caps off three years of planning among Bullis parents and staffers exploring what it would take to expand the charter school into a new community. The team ultimately landed on Mountain View, Anderson-Rosse said, for a host of reasons including the city's diverse demographics, growing enrollment and funding model.
She said the demand certainly seems to be there, given that 200 Mountain View families seeking a spot in the charter school were wait-listed last year, and both of Mountain View's choice programs — Dual Immersion at Mistral Elementary and Stevenson PACT — are popular alternative choices to traditional public schools.
Bullis parent Grace Yang, a longtime member of the team planning for the new school, said Bullis Charter School's expansion mindset has been baked into the school's strategic plan since 2012, with the bulk of the planning occurring over the last three years. She said it's arguably been a long time coming, and that Bullis is somewhat of an anomaly for sticking to just one campus for well over a decade. The short list of partner agencies included school districts in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, she said.
Where exactly in Mountain View the school would be located remains unclear. Anderson-Rosse said the first step is to put together the application and receive approval from the school district before deciding on its facilities.
Plans for the new Mountain View school are entirely separate from the ongoing debate over where the existing Bullis Charter School will be housed within the Los Altos School District and the effort to secure for it "permanent" facilities. Bullis is currently located in portables and split between two Los Altos public school campuses.
Outreach to Mountain View residents on the proposal had mostly been one-on-one conversations with interested families up until last week, when the district held a parent night at the Mountain View Senior Center on Aug. 30. The meeting, which was posted on a Bullis Mountain View Facebook page, was not meant to be widely publicized, and drew about 20 predominantly Spanish-speaking families.
The Mountain View Whisman School District confirmed it has not received a formal application from Bullis Charter School as of Tuesday, Sept. 4, and had no prior warning about the announcement. Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph said Bullis officials had met with him twice over the past year and a half to discuss their expansion goals and spoke broadly about their desire for a "partner district," but did not talk about a direct partnership with Mountain View Whisman.
"Their announcement to you, and the subsequent Voice article (posted Friday), come as a complete surprise to me," Rudolph said in an email.
For the charter school to open in fall 2019, the district would need to receive the application and provide a response by Feb. 1, Rudolph said.
The plan is to draw heavily on the curriculum at Bullis' existing charter school in Los Altos, with a strong emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM), project-based learning and personalized education plans for students.
One of the big differences proposed in the application is that incoming students would have transitional kindergarten and full-day kindergarten to ensure students without access to high-quality preschool don't enter the public school system behind their peers.
Yang said lower-income families often struggle to pay the high cost of preschool and have difficulty working around a half-day kindergarten schedule. Offering both of these at the new charter school would be a game-changer, Yang said.
"What we're really offering is a solid path for their kids," she said.
Bullis is among the highest-performing schools in the state and popular among families in the county, with close to 1,000 families seeking to enroll children in kindergarten each year. Of those families who apply, only one in 10 are admitted through a lottery process. Bullis board members have expressed interest in accommodating more of the demand through a new school, as well as increasing enrollment at its existing school.
The strategy for financing the school's operations will likely differ significantly from the existing charter school, where close to one-third of Bullis' annual budget comes from parents and community members and only 5 percent of students are from low-income families that qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches. Bullis parents are encouraged — though not required — to consider donating $5,000 per student per year. By drawing from lower-income families in the community, the funding may need to instead come from state, federal and private grants, and the school would be eligible for more state funding to support "target" students who are either English learners or come from low-income families.
Anderson-Rosse said the new school would seek to benefit from grant funding made available to charter schools, but would be able to survive solely on public dollars provided by state and local funding.
Upcoming information sessions on the charter school proposal include a Saturday, Sept. 8, meeting at 9 a.m. at 102 W. Portola Ave. in Los Altos, followed by a Tuesday, Sept. 11, meeting at 7 p.m. at 1124 Covington Road in Los Altos.
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