Editorial: Bombshell deal just might work

Last week’s surprising announcement of a major facilities deal between Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District has far-reaching implications, to say the least.

If the boards of both entities agree to the proposal, Bullis Charter School would get the Egan Junior High campus and most of its 18 acres, beginning as early as 2023, and operate under an enrollment cap of just over 1,100 students. Egan would occupy the new 10th-site campus in the San Antonio neighborhood of Mountain View.

To emphasize, the boards have yet to sign off on the accord, and our sense is that Monday’s scheduled district board meeting, which occurred after the Town Crier’s deadline, is sure to be a doozy.

The news is jarring, considering the line-in-the-sand mentality both sides have adopted in the 15 years since Bullis Charter School opened and began sparring with the district over facilities.

It’s obvious to us that the deal is a big win for the charter school. It gets an expansive property, south of El Camino Real.

It’s not so obvious to us that the district is benefiting as much. In fact, staunch district supporters are already voicing vehement opposition and claiming that the district brass has given in.

However, we see the district benefiting because the agreement ends years of conflict and officials can refocus on their core mission: educating kids. And the district is proposing to use a nearly 3-acre portion of the Egan site to build housing for teachers, which we see as a necessary and positive part of the deal.

Bullis Charter School is not going away; in fact, it’s growing. The district offered the charter school Egan, not the new Mountain View campus, because it could better accommodate the huge charter school’s student body. It didn’t make sense for fewer than 600 Egan students to keep an 18.8-acre campus to themselves. Instead, Egan will occupy a nearly 10-acre new campus.

Plenty of questions remain – we haven’t even addressed the potential traffic and transportation impacts. But pragmatically, if you consider the numbers and the demand, this deal accomplishes the objective of meeting student and parent needs in our community.

The district is not giving away land. The 10-year agreement requires Bullis Charter School to pay nearly $250,000 annually, increasing by 3 percent each year. That bodes well for a cash-strapped school district that needs to retain good teachers.

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