LASD board punts on use of 10th campus

Unknown if new school will serve nearby Mountain View residents

The Mountain View City Council decided to postpone approval of a plan that would pave the way for a new school in the San Antonio region of Mountain View, after Los Altos School District trustees declined to make a concrete decision on who would attend the school.

District board members argued at a meeting Monday night that the future is far too hazy to decide whether the new 10th campus should serve students residing in the Mountain View portion of the district, or Bullis Charter School -- or even an unknown third option. Nothing was taken off the table at the Oct. 8 board meeting, with board members instead calling for construction of a school with maximum "flexibility" that could fit a multitude of uses.

Mountain View City Council members, in response, agreed on Tuesday, Oct. 9, to postpone taking up the item until the district provides more clarity on the site use.

Board members have met in closed session six times in the last few weeks to work out the final details of a land purchase for a new school, which would be located at the corner of Showers Drive and California Street. It's unclear how much the district will pay for the roughly 9.6 acres of property, but cost of land in the area has been estimated in the past to be between $10-15 million per acre.

In order to offset the cost, the school district has sought help from the city of Mountain View. Barring a decision to reverse course, council members are expected to authorize contributing $23 million in park fees in exchange for use of field space, and permit the district to "sell" any unused allowable density on the site to developers to defray the costs. The so-called TDRs (transfer of development rights) are expected to generate $79.3 million, essentially pushing dense developments into other parts of Mountain View.

Some council members have expressed uneasiness signing off on the financial help until they know what kind of school will go on the San Antonio site. This ultimately led to the decision to postpone approval of a funding agreement for the park fees and joint use agreement spelling out how recreational facilities planned for the school site will be shared.

School board members maintain that decision would be premature in such a volatile situation. It's unclear what facilities Bullis Charter School will require, as the charter school prepares to grow by more than 30 percent. Negotiations for buying the land are also still ongoing, and it wouldn't be a good idea to "spin everyone up" about the use of the site if the land hasn't even been secured, said board member Steve Taglio.

"I don't think it's a slam dunk that it's going to happen," Taglio said.

Board member Bryan Johnson said he understands the city wants a clear plan for the school by the Oct. 16 council meeting, but he said it's difficult to conjure up a specific plan when there are so many unknowns with regard to enrollment changes and what the Bullis Charter School community wants. Putting a flag in the ground now when the situation could radically change in the next two or three years would be a mistake, he said.

After the meeting, Johnson told the Voice that he agrees a neighborhood school would be a huge benefit to the San Antonio neighborhood, but it's unclear if an elementary school is going to be the best use of the site for "education purposes" in the near term.

"This neighborhood deserves a neighborhood school as much as other neighborhoods, in the abstract," he said. "But in the specific, we're going to use it to improve the educational program for those kids, and we can't really tell you what that looks like four years from now, eight years from now."

Board members also pointed out that the community -- both at the Monday night meeting and in the past -- has been sharply divided about the district's plans, and called it proof that more discussion and community feedback needs to take place.

Some public speakers at the meeting encouraged the board to buy the 10th site, while others called it a terrible idea and claimed it was the wrong fit for a retail center fraught with crime. Several speakers said putting a neighborhood school there makes sense and fulfills the district's vision for small, neighborhood-oriented schools, while others warned that redrawing boundaries to accommodate such a school would tear the community apart. No one at the meeting advocated for relocating Bullis to the San Antonio site.

District parent Laura Teksler said the school board has reaffirmed time and again that small neighborhood schools are an important part of the district's education model, yet it hasn't extended the same opportunity to students living in the San Antonio area. The latest count shows there are nearly 700 district students living in the northernmost portion of the district that extends into Mountain View -- and with new housing construction, hundreds more are expected to move in -- and yet the neighborhood's students are split between three campuses in Los Altos.

"I see no reason why the north of El Camino area should not have that same opportunity," she said. "It makes no sense to me to have hundreds of children who are already there ... crossing El Camino Real and coming to Covington and Almond and Santa Rita (schools)."

Oak Elementary PTA president Tara Williamson, speaking on her own behalf, said she supported buying the 10th site regardless of what kind of school ends up there, but said she was uneasy with the idea that it could force the district to redraw attendance boundaries. She argues it wouldn't be "fair or right" to break up the communities of seven or nine schools for the sake of drawing boundaries for a new campus.

"We're a community," she said. "And uprooting or redrawing boundaries will be a devastating effect on all of these schools."

Running with the noncommittal theme at the Monday night meeting, Bullis Charter School officials in attendance did not definitively state whether the Bullis community would be willing to be relocated onto the San Antonio site. Bullis board chair Joe Hurd told district trustees at the meeting that, in general, the charter school has sought to operate on a single site in a central location in the district. He also questioned any decision that proposes cramming the largest school in the district onto what would be one of the smallest campuses.

Bullis Charter School's plans call for increasing enrollment from 915 this year to about 1,200 in the near future, and it's unclear if, and how, that many students would fit on the proposed San Antonio site. District administrators stated in an August meeting that putting 1,200 students at the 10th site is not an option, and that even a 900 students could require a dense campus with three-story structures.

Although the majority of the board did not weigh in on a preferred use for the Mountain View school, board President Vladimir Ivanovic said his personal preference was a neighborhood school. All five board members reaffirmed that buying the property is the right choice, and that the district needs a 10th site for future enrollment growth.

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57 people like this
Posted by Stop the Insanity
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2018 at 10:40 am

-Close Covington and move BCS to that campus
-Move 6th grade to Egan/Blach
-Spend the Measure N bond funds to upgrade existing schools

19 people like this
Posted by Not to Decide is To Decide
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2018 at 10:59 am

Absent a clear decision to use the site as soon as it opens for a neighborhood school, the clear decision that has been made is to foist this off as a so-called solution for the need to house Bullis Charter school.

This has been the talk continually through the entire process of searching for more land. The need to serve the local kids around Kohl's has just been a convenient excuse to seek aid from the city of Mountain View. The truth is that LASD does not need more land.

I think there's a real possibility that the city council will kill this insane plan. In any event, kiss the $23 Million park funds goodbye.

27 people like this
Posted by Lenny Siegel
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 10, 2018 at 11:22 am

Lenny Siegel is a registered user.

At the end of Tuesday night's marathon Mountain View City Council, the Council decided to put off further consideration of the school proposal until we get a clearer picture from the school district.

25 people like this
Posted by Really!?
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2018 at 2:03 pm

Bryan Johnson's comment is one to remember: "This neighborhood deserves a neighborhood school as much as other neighborhoods, in the abstract...we can't really tell you what that looks like four years from now, eight years from now."

Does that mean anything?

He wants MVCC to approve funding for something that he can't say what it will look like in four to eight years?

If he and the LASD BoT can't provide leadership for this situation, they should not ask for MVCC financial support or community support on this project. Forget the community feedback, we need leaders.

15 people like this
Posted by CB
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2018 at 2:22 pm

It's about time MV city counsel came to their senses. Did anyone ever survey the NEC MV residents to ask if they would rather be driven to Santa Rita, Almond, or Covington or attend a school in a dense retail/commercial shopping center with terrible traffic? If I it was my child I would prefer the former....

PS. Anyone ever consider 28011 Elena Rd? 48 acres in LAH for $30million? Enough land for teacher housing, district offices, and a nice school....

8 people like this
Posted by Story needs another update
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2018 at 2:26 pm

The video is online. They actually voted 6-0 with 1 abstention to not entertain this item again until LASD makes a decision. Some comments from the city manager about LASD possibly not even being ready to discuss it next week, but this applies beyond next week. Look at the very end of the meeting, like at 5:58 12:05 am

Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by 28011 Elena Rd
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2018 at 2:30 pm

That's not in LASD's territory, it's in PAUSD. Plus no good for teacher housing as would not meet city zoning regs. would exceed sewer capacity and has poor road access for a civic facility anyway.

22 people like this
Posted by Think! do not react
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2018 at 2:33 pm

Stop and think, we do not need a new building we have enough school buildings in Los Altos!.
Spend the money to modernize the schools, spend money to pay the good teachers better salaries to retain the good teachers.
Give BCS Covington,Combine Blach and Egan, let the community heal and stop being mad at each other for no reason.

Change is hard but change is good. people might not be happy short term but that is the right thing to do with the bond money, do good for all people in Los Altos and all the local kids.
Modernize the facilities, pay teachers better, heal the community , Create a better learning environment for our kids (Do not put any kids in the middle of a shopping center!
invest in Los Altos future vs building a school in an area which will leave our existing schools in bad shape, teachers that can not live locally and neighbors mad at each other.
Stop the viscous cycle of combative I am right vs I am right! have the guts and do the right thing once and for all.

16 people like this
Posted by Los Altos resident
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2018 at 2:35 pm

I attended the Monday meeting with the expectations to hear more tangible or constructive proposals from BCS but there wasn't any. As mentioned in this article, all they mentioned was a single large campus located centrally, and that is Covington school to my understanding - the best performing school in LASD. BCS board member gave an enrollment pitch with no clarity of capping the school size once it reaches 1200. The Los Altos school enrollment numbers should be looked at in its entirety. Clearly BCS is taking students away from LASD. The students on its wait list are also enrolled to LASD.

Even if BCS is in demand, the Los Altos community does not want a monster school that adds traffic jams, safety risks to our neighborhood. Which is a direct threat to our children who walk and bike to school. My kids included.

Also, if BCS truly cares it's students and teaching qualities, it should not be focusing on growth, instead it should focus on its teacher retention, students diversity and teaching qualities. Like the LASD schools and top private schools, they maintain a reasonable size, good teacher students ratio, adequate compensation and pensions for their teachers, who are their best assets. BCS offers no pensions and lower pays to teachers compared with LASD teachers, with no support from teachers' union, how would these attract the best teachers remains a question to me. I am interested to see its teacher turn over rate. And a public survey to BCS parents on their preferences of school size, student and teacher ratios.

We choose LASD because the space our students enjoy and we want to keep the neighborhood school characters. And not lower our standards. If BCS wants to continue to grow, please find its own site and run as a private school. I doubt any school district in the bay area is able to accommodate a 1200+ and growing school in a single site.

BCS should stay true to what a charter school is meant to be:
1. Serving the under performing and gifted children,
2. Be a supplement to the public school system.

It should not disrupt a high performing school district;

It should not competing with home school's for funding and facilities;

and it should refrain itself to becoming a monster school against the wishes of los altos community.

Whatever the solutions are, both BCS and LASD needs to put the entire school district and it's community's interest as first priority. BCS's gain should not be built on top of other school's loss.

For young children to thrive, they need to have a trusting relationship with the school environment, with their teachers and their school friends. To move the students away from this outstanding school will no question disturb and damage children's learning progress, and their well-being in the long run. It will also add huge traffic and safety risks to the neighborhood.

Again, BCS's gain should not be built on top of other school's loss.

30 people like this
Posted by Thank you MVCC
a resident of Gemello
on Oct 10, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Thank you to the MVCC for finally realizing that LASD was taking advantage of you. They want everything and will commit to nothing. Without a firm agreement in writing about the use of the site, you can be sure that LASD will NEVER put a neighborhood school there.
Why is it that the 700 + MV kids NEC don't have a neighborhood school, yet Oak, Gardner and Loyola have excess capacity. I understand that LASD doesn't want the operating expense of another school, but why not consolidate their underutilized and adjacent campuses and open a new school NEC? Are the MV kids worth less than Los ALtos kids?

24 people like this
Posted by Another LASD resident to that Los Altos resident
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2018 at 4:03 pm

It's been so many years, still the "BCS is evil, all charter schools are evil. If there are charters, they should take only the kids we don't care about.".

Please grow up and stop spreading those divisive messages in our community. BCS families are our neighbors, their kids are just like our kids.

It's now time for our leadership to do the right thing, solve the issue once and for all, allowing our community to heal over time.

20 people like this
Posted by @Los Altos Resident
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2018 at 4:08 pm

There are many flaws in your large manifesto. First of all, the charter school is not disrupting in a bad way. It's disrupting in the good way known these days about innovative companies that blaze paths of improvement. LASD has added many new programs to compete with BCS. These are programs that just would not exist without the charter's competition.

Your focus on traffic is nuts. There are a certain number of kids living in the district and they are going to go somewhere. 70-80% of the kids across LASD arrive at schools in cars. This is true even without considering the charter school. If you take away the charter school those kids are going to go to YOUR school. Maybe not 900 but easily 200 could be added depending on the school. The schools now are 100 students smaller than they used to be before BCS, and they were already considered small.

Then there is this idea about claiming BCS is too large. Well, LASD is the cause of them being split into two and then growing from two different bases of operation. LASD had this idea to get a new site and put them there and hope that they didn't outgrow the site. But they dragged their feet and didn't work anything out to actually get this site. Now they say in 4 years they'll have the site, after the charter has waited 5 years already. I don't know, but it seems like one thing in all this is that the charter will end up being split onto at least 2 separate sites, so it won't be one mega school. All they say is they would have preferred to all be on one site. They were forced by LASD to split and have 2 separate principals for each location. It's not a mega school it's a dual-location school. LASD has said 600 student schools are a reasonable upper limit. So if the charter is 1200 and splits into 2 600's, that's the SAME as LASD's plans.

If you open a school at California Avenue as the MV city council was led to believe would happen, then Covington, Santa Rita and Almond shrink to under 400.
Maybe you serve part of the NEC area at Santa Rita too. Maybe it stays up at 530. It used to be 580. But still you have both Almond and Covington at under 400 each, and a lot of other schools under 400. So put 600 of BCS at Covington and the total site is still under 1000, with 2 different start and end times splitting traffic arrivals. You don't NEED to close Covington. Maybe it would be too expensive to operate Covington if it is down at 300 kids or something, but maybe having 1/2 of BCS on the site would allow keeping both schools open. Did you ever think of that? Covington of course has 2 to 3 times as much land as are used at the other elementary schools, depending on how you count (16 acres plus 6 acre park).

20 people like this
Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 10, 2018 at 5:10 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

Faced with declining enrollment and no word from LASD School Board about how they will address that very serious problem, this is a correct decision. Remember, LASD's "Hail Mary" plan was to try to confiscate the Kohl's parcel by "right of eminent domain", funded (if I am correct) by the MV City Council!!! If LASD doesn't have a detailed, coherent plan for why that site is needed, than they'll never make it through that drastic legal process. LASD (and the MV City Council) both really need to get their "stuff" together.

15 people like this
Posted by Vote YING LIU
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2018 at 5:29 pm

Vote YING LIU is a registered user.

What a bunch of mamby pamby BS. Johnson “not knowing what the needs will look like in 4 years”?? Ivanovic saying he favors a neighborhood school (just to get votes I’m sure) knowing full well that will never happen. They haven’t once mentioned that they don’t have funds or enrollment to run an additional site. The ONLY school that can go in there is BCS. These LASD board members are flat out lying about their plans. Vote them out.

15 people like this
Posted by Kicking
a resident of The Crossings
on Oct 10, 2018 at 7:38 pm

LASD does this. They kick the can as we call it. Very typical behavior. They did the same with 5150 El Camino. Got everyone all worked up and then eventually decided not to pursue the site. Here, they will say we tried! Face it, without MVCCs blessing, Kohl’s site is all but a dream. They will blame MVCC and then kick the can for a few more years. It will be 10 years after passing Measure N and maybe then voters will realize how irresponsible the LASD trustee cronies are. Meanwhile, they will try to pass more bonds while slowly eating up Measure N dollars on anything but enrollment “growth”/decline or the BCS problem. Recall Measure N.

7 people like this
Posted by EvenIf
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 11, 2018 at 8:55 am

While it seems silly to me to put a school on the Kohl’s site and even sillier for the city of MV to pay millions for it, even if they did put a neighborhood school there to serve NEC kids, that new school will probably be rated lower than the other LASD schools because the NEC kids are not as economically advantaged as the Los Altos kids. So then what happens when the new school is clearly the lowest performing LASD school based on test scores and ratings? NEC parents will demand access to other LASD schools (Look at MVWSD where families try for Huff, Bubb, and Stevenson because their ratings are higher than the respective neighborhood schools). Eventually LASD will have to address the situation either by rezoning or by putting a different program at the NEC site. Either way it would no longer be a neighborhood school.

6 people like this
Posted by FrmDatCaliStFam
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Oct 11, 2018 at 10:36 am

Everyone on here talks like they know what the heck is going on. Just leave the site alone as it serves it's purpose. Replace Khols with another business if it's failing to meet revenue expectations and leave 24 hr. fitness as I do not want to drive all the way to Sunnyvale to hoop during heavy traffic on Elco. Besides traffic is already contested in the area. We don't need more traffic!

Like this comment
Posted by ResidentSince1982
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2018 at 1:56 pm

ResidentSince1982 is a registered user.

LASD residents generally already do have access to any school. They are not guaranteed access to the one to which they are assigned. This year several Kindergarten students living in the Springer area were diverted to another school owing to full classes (2 classes of 23 each, where 23 is the largest K class size in LASD this year.) The last survey in 2013 showed 80% of residents arriving at Covington by private passenger car, and other schools were similar. They all have very large geographic areas that they serve (Covington's is the smallest such area but 1/3 of the school travels from The Crossings and Old Mill Condos).

Look, this is not an especially high low income area. The other elementary schools in Mountain View vary from area to area with the lowest being Huff in MVWSD and Springer in LASD. This is really not much different from those. So it's one of the least in terms of low income percentages of elementary schools in the city. That's ALREADY. Then when you consider that low cost apartments are being torn down and replaced with new buildings renting for $5K per month for a one bedroom, the area is only going to gentrify more.

Like this comment
Posted by 1200 too much?
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2018 at 5:53 pm

1200 too much? is a registered user.

People keep mentioning that BCS is planning to grow to 1200 students, and that is way too big. They seem to forget that Bullis Charter School is a K-8 school. Egan has 645 kids and Santa Rita 558 (per great schools org). If you combine the two, that is already over 1200 kids.

4 people like this
Posted by Justice Kavanaugh
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 13, 2018 at 3:13 am

Justice Kavanaugh is a registered user.

I can't say how I would vote or what I am thinking because I would not want to be accused of having a mind - that is made up. The important thing is for the City to give me a bunch of money with no strings attached and trust me to do what's best. But maybe we can agree on this: whatever the ultimate use, let's call the site KAVANAUGH PREP. And how about a moto? "What happens at Kavanaugh Prep, stays at Kavanaugh Prep." Snappy. Students need to prepare for persons like me they will encounter in life. Did I mention it should be called Kavanaugh Prep? Named after the 3 most important persons in the whole country: me, myself and I. Cheers.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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