Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph's request that Bullis Charter School to put the brakes on plans to open a new campus in the Mountain View Whisman School District went unanswered.
Citing a need for new school boundaries to take effect in order to better predict where the charter school could be housed, Rudolph sought a delay, but Bullis' leadership filed its charter application on Tuesday, Oct. 16, and is requesting the Mountain View Whisman School District to provide facilities to house the charter school in time for the next school year.
Last month, Bullis officials revealed plans to open a new school serving primarily low-income Latino students in Mountain View Whisman. The timing is not ideal, at least from the school district's perspective. Students in the Mountain View Whisman School District will be reshuffled next year, as new attendance boundaries take effect and district officials open the new Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary School on the former Slater School site. How many kids will end up at each campus remains hazy -- with the district relying on best guesses and demographic estimates. Rudolph said in an Oct. 5 statement that he requested the charter school delay its plans to the following year.
"Considering the proposed timing of their submittal and Bullis' desire to open at the start of the 2019-20 school year, I requested that they follow the California Charter School Association's recommendation for a charter petition submittal in the spring, 1.5 years before Bullis' planned opening," Rudolph said in the statement.
The superintendent made the request following an information session between district and charter school officials earlier this month -- an informational meeting that ballooned to include about 20 people, including school board members Laura Blakely and Tamara Wilson -- to review the charter school's plans. The proposal calls for opening a 168-student school offering transitional kindergarten through second grade in the 2019-20 school year, ramping up to a total of 320 kids through fifth grade by 2022-23.
Bullis administrator Jennifer Anderson-Rosse said Rudolph's interest in slowing down was made at the Oct. 3 information session, but said district officials did not make the request clear in any formal letter or subsequent communication.
The charter school proposal is entirely separate from concurrent plans by the neighboring Los Altos School District to build a school campus in Mountain View, which could potentially house the existing 915-student Bullis Charter School that's located in Los Altos.
Where this new Mountain View Whisman charter school would go remains a mystery, Rudolph told the Voice. The district will be implementing new boundaries and opening Vargas Elementary while concurrently trying to accommodate the charter school, adding to the level of unpredictability on how many kids will end up at each campus. He said the district is going to make some best guesses by mid-March to plan for the upcoming school year.
"It would seem to me that the most favorable outcome is, instead of trying to open immediately next year, they work with us about where the space is," he said. "We're playing the numbers game and we can only project what it looks like."
"They weren't really comfortable with that. They are adamant about applying (for) next year."
During the yearslong redrawing of school boundaries, which concluded last year, district officials identified three schools would likely be under capacity, essentially stating that Monta Loma, Theuerkauf and Castro elementary schools could stand to grow by about 25 percent without causing problems. But none of those sites appear to be a good option for housing an additional 320-student school, Rudolph said. It doesn't seem viable to try and wedge a third school onto the shared campus housing Castro and Mistral elementary schools. He said the planned growth and location of transitional kindergarten at the Theuerkauf and Stevenson Elementary site would also leave little room for a charter school.
When asked whether splitting the school onto multiple sites was an option, Rudolph said the preference was to keep it together -- keeping in mind that the 168-student enrollment in the charter school's inaugural year will jump to 320.
"We could put them on multiple sites, but from a district perspective, it would make sense to find them a place where they could be housed at a single site," he said.
Although Bullis' existing school in Los Altos serves a very different demographic, with less than 1 percent of its students qualifying as low-income, the charter school intends to open a second school in Mountain View Whisman with priority enrollment for lower-income students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. The actual mechanics behind how it would grant preferential enrollment remained unclear prior to the release of the charter petition.
Rudolph said he is also seeking more academic performance data from Bullis Charter School to get a better sense of its track record serving socio-economically disadvantaged students, Latino students and special education students. While English learners and Latino students attending the charter school tend to perform exceedingly well relative to neighboring districts, Rudolph cautioned that its not an apples-to-apples comparison, and that the charter school lacks data showing how low-income families within those demographics do on standardized tests.