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Bullis, Los Altos School District Back in Court

After negotiations over a long-term agreement break down, Bullis Charter School asks the court to hold hearings on the district's compliance. The district asks the court to determine whether BCS is a semi-private school and is entitled to Prop. 39 facilit

After a season of hope, one that included an announcement of a tentative agreement, Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District head back to court.

"I am sorry to have to inform you that the Bullis Charter School has decided not to accept our interim offer to keep their K-8 program at Egan for the next two years while we work out a long-term agreement and have instead chosen to return to court," wrote Los Altos School Board President Mark Goines in an email to district parents Friday.

With a breakdown in negotiations, Bullis asked Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas on Friday to hold hearings on the district's compliance with the court's order to , the state law that requires districts to provide "reasonably equivalent" facilities to charter schools in their boundaries.

"I'm totally disappointed that the district backed away from the tentative mediated agreement," said Bullis board Chairman Ken Moore. "That was months in the making, and it had extracted large compromise from both sides." 

The Los Altos School District responded during a hearing Friday, and took a new tack: it has raised the question of whether BCS is a semi-private school, and asked the court whether such a school is entitled to public school facilities under Prop. 39. It also asked whether a district's offer is compliant, when combined with a charter school's private resources that provide equal or greater student resources than those afforded in-district students. 

"It is not the desire by LASD board to make this more difficult than it has to be," said district Trustee Doug Smith who has been a member of the ad-hoc negotiating team. He noted that district school parents have been raising that question for months, but "we have been holding back."

Things had looked more hopeful on May 7, when , one Smith called a framework for a solution that would last a decade or more, was announced by both boards.

Negotiations over a long-term agreement foundered last week, however, as both sides labored to hammer out a host of details in just a month, and anxious district parents had raised a series of concerns. Four schools—Almond, Santa Rita, part of Covington, and Gardner Bullis—had been identified as possible sites for Bullis Charter School. Part of the solution, too, hinged on finding a 10th site, ostensibly to place a displaced school, or even a location in Mountain View. Twenty-five percent of LASD live in Mountain VIew.

Last week, unable to identify a possible 10th school site in a three-week timeframe, the district offered an interim agreement, initially presented as a term sheet, that the board thought would provide a little breathing room while trying find a campus.

Bullis had objected to the interim agreement because members felt the district had reneged on key features of the agreed-upon framework, said charter school Chairman Ken Moore Friday.

"The term sheet took all of the concessions BCS made during the mediation, but none of the benefits," Moore told Patch Friday afternoon. "In my opinion they backtracked away.

"We reached a point that we're going to have to go into court and set up dates so that the judge could hear our case."

Patch has posted a copy of LASD's response, and will post a copy of BCS' brief when the board makes it available.

Watch for more updates over the weekend, as Patch further analyzes the action, and provides more information from interviews conducted Friday.

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