Housing Schools

a.k.a a harebrained (maybe not?) attempt to actually solve a problem

Disclosure: I’m a parent of children who attend(ed) Bullis Charter School.
Updated: I’ve added a second example

There’s a lot of history to the conflict over facilities between the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School. A short summary can be found on wikipedia. Events of note:

  1. LASD convinced the community to vote for a parcel tax
  2. LASD closed the only elementary school in Los Altos Hills after the parcel tax passed
  3. Parents from Los Altos Hills formed a charter school to provide their kids a place to go to school. In true Silicon Valley Fashion™ these founders adopted and built in to the charter a requirement that the curriculum and methods look for the latest and best ways to teach the whole child.
  4. LASD, obligated under Prop 39 to provide facilities to the charter that are “reasonably equivalent” to those of the district run schools, fails to provide reasonably equivalent facilities for about a decade. As BCS approaches 15% of the district’s students, they’ve never had more than 9 or 10% of the facilities, confined to six and four acre “camps” on the district middle schools.
  5. BCS and LASD reach a five-year agreement on facilities and attendance levels in exchange for BCS dropping all Prop 39 suits and precluding the need for the Prop 39 process. This five-year period provides “breathing space” for LASD to develop a thoughtful plan without the annual Prop 39 pressure.
  6. The community passes Measure N, a $150 million bond, which is sold as the funding that will solve the BCS facilities problem *and* fix up the existing district managed schools.
  7. About halfway through the five-year agreement, LASD is planning to purchase (see Trustee Luther’s letter to the editor) a four acre commercial site on a major thoroughfare in order to construct a multi-story ‘new model school’ that might be used for BCS or might be used for the ‘North of El Camino’ kids. They are also planning to use $100 million of the bond money for this, when they already have a prioritized $180 million dollar to-do list from the district managed schools that was part of the Measure N sales job.

The final bit of context is that given that history and the current plans of the district, everyone is once again getting worked up about waste, inefficiency, greed, that awful charter school, those diabolical trustees, inappropriate use of public funds, and so on.

I would like to propose something that might be just crazy enough to work. I have a plan that would spend only $50 million on land and about $35 million on construction, which would leave $15 million more for the district managed schools. It would also provide a reasonably equivalent, single and contiguous campus that would better support the charter’s K-8 learning model. It would be in an area already suited to the kind of traffic generated by 900 students attending the facility. Perhaps most importantly for the Trustees, it would only anger 15 households worth of voters!

Ready for it?

You’re going to slap your forehead and wonder why *you* didn’t think of it.

Really. Are you sitting down?


Here it is:

  1. Buy eight houses in Los Altos Hills across the street from Foothill College
  2. Flatten the houses
  3. Build a school
  4. Profit!

Check it out, here’s the parcels to be bought. According to Google Maps, it’s just under 10 and a half acres total:

Those houses in the targeted area? According to Zillow, we should be able to pick them up for under $32 million dollars, but I’ve bumped it up to $50 million because some of them might not want to move:

We’re already handling the traffic from Foothill College, so with a little planning we should be able to avoid aggravating bad traffic.

As I pointed out, it might really anger the seven or eight families who would need to move, and also might upset the folks on Stonebrook and Priscilla who would now have a school nearby, but there’s a reasonable chance that they’d be happy about it! Either way, the 20–30 voters who might be disgruntled are unlikely to be enough to disrupt the Trustee elections since EVERYONE ELSE IN THE DISTRICT WOULD BE HAPPY!

Can I keep 10% of the $15 million I’m saving the district?

Update: We could also do this where the District is currently leasing to the Waldorf School. Huge benefit here: we’d have three tennis courts already built for use in the physical education program! Only seven landowners, but since Zillow shows higher prices it could still cost us $50 million, but might be closer to $40!

10.49 acres with 4 of the acres already covered with school buildings
Seven properties instead of eight, but higher prices for each.
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