A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge has sided with the Los Altos School District in its latest legal run-in with Bullis Charter School, but the fight over facilities appears to be far from over.
In a lawsuit filed Sept. 12, the high-performing charter school asked Judge Patricia M. Lucas to compel the district to accept its higher enrollment projections and allocate facilities accordingly, as well as provide exclusive daily use of one-half of the City Gym at Egan Junior High.
The action also sought furnishings and equipment for seventh- and eighth-grade students at Bullis that are "reasonably equivalent" to those enjoyed by their peers at district schools.
Lucas instead recently ruled in the district's favor.
According to the judge's eight-page decision, Bullis incorrectly argued that the district must defer to the charter school when there is disagreement over enrollment projections.
"While the regulations do not specifically address what happens when the district and the school district disagree, if, as Petitioner claims, the district has no discretion at all to favor its own projections over those of the school, there would be little point in allowing the district to express them," Lucas wrote.
Lucas also disagreed with the charter school's position that the district could not revoke access to the City Gym. Although gym access was initially included in its 2012-13 facilities offer, the district said it had to account for the physical education needs of more than 500 Egan students.
"There is no support for a holding that a district is utterly without discretion to accomplish the statutory goal of balancing the needs of charter and non-charter schools," Lucas wrote.
As for turning down the charter school's request for reasonably equivalent furnishings and equipment, Lucas pointed to evidence presented by the district that it had made "relevant inquiries" as long ago as April.
District officials welcomed the turn of events.
"The District is heartened by this ruling because it has always endeavored to take the best interests of all its public school students into account, and this ruling affirms it has the right to do so and made the right choices," Superintendent Jeffrey Baier said in a statement.
"This ruling affirms that LASD is permitted to exercise reasonable discretion, and to balance the needs of all students when considering facilities issues. Having this discretion from the court should provide some clarity for all parties, and allow LASD to focus more of our time and energies on doing what is best for children," he said.
However, a lawyer for the charter school, Arturo Gonzalez, said the judge got it wrong and that an appeal would be filed.
"The ruling is disappointing. There are a number of issues we raised that were not addressed in the order," Gonzalez told the Bay Area News Group. "We look forward to presenting them to the (California) Court of Appeal. We have a strong record there, and I'm sure we'll prevail."