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Growth splits graduating 8th graders

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POSTED May 21, 2015 1:31 a.m.

Growth is tearing apart 8th grade classes this month.

Four elementary schools — Woodward, Veritas, Nile Garden and Golden West — will see students being promoted from the eighth grade next week go to two different high schools in August.

It is a big reason why 900 students — or the equivalent enrollment of an elementary school — all sought reassignment to another school earlier this year as part of the Manteca Unified open enrollment process.

And it is why Traci Casetta’s son is dreading his freshman year.

“All of his classmates are going to Sierra High in the fall but he’s being sent to Manteca High,” Casetta said.

She said her son is 13th on the district lottery list to get a spot at Sierra High should space open up before school starts in August.

“It isn’t unusual for students 10th, 15th or 20th on a waiting list to get into a school they are requesting to attend,” noted Manteca Unified Senior Director of Student Services Roger Goatcher.

He added that sometimes students requesting a switch either move out of the district or change their mind. In the case of Casetta’s son, he is now 12th on the waiting list as another student ahead of him has decided that he doesn’t want to go to a different school.

Casetta has two children at Veritas — a third grader and an eighth grader.

• • •

Veritas more than twice as far as Woodward School

When the family initially bought a home on Nello Way in the triangle bound by Van Ryn Avenue, Atherton Drive, and Woodward Avenue in 2012 they were in the Woodward School attendance area. There was also a site in the neighborhood for a primary grade annex campus to Woodward School much like McParland School model in north Manteca.

Casetta, though, elected to have her children attend a charter school near her work in Ceres. When that job ended she went to enroll her children in Woodward School in 2013. By that time new apartments had been added along Atherton Drive and more homes were built southeast of Woodward School. As a result, her children were sent to Nile Garden School. The school district also did a land swap for the school site for land to build a school more than three miles t the west near McKinley Avenue.

After finishing the school year there, they moved to what was now the new home school based on when they initially enrolled in the district in 2013 — Veritas School.

“Home schools for elementary schools are completely separate from high schools,” Goatcher noted. 

Now after being at Veritas School two years and building bonds with his classmates, her son has to go to Manteca High in the fall and not Sierra High where all of his school friends are going unless space opens up.

Casetta noted that only Sierra High counselors, club representatives, and coaches visited 8th graders at Veritas and not any from Manteca High.

“He was signed up for classes at Manteca High through a counselor with Sierra High,” she said. Being a freshman is tough enough but going to a place where your friends aren’t going makes it real rough. He’s pretty depressed about it.”

Casetta said she didn’t understand why her children weren’t sent to Woodward School that’s just about a mile from their home instead of Veritas which is 2.4 miles away.

She pointed to other districts nearby where enrollment boundaries aren’t as fluid as in Manteca.

But as Goatcher pointed out, that has to do with growth.

• • •

Manteca kept selling new homes during recession

During the five years of the Great Recession the City of Manteca added an average of 300 housing units a year, with most of them south of the 120 Bypass. That 300 annual figure was more each year than all of combined housing units built in the rest of the Northern San Joaquin Valley from Merced to Lodi and Tracy to Oakdale.

And it will be getting worse.

Currently, there are two active developments being built within a mile to the southeast of Woodward School. Atherton Homes will break ground later this year on more homes less than a mile east of the Woodward campus.

Meanwhile two builders are selling homes along Woodward Avenue west of Veritas School. The other active builder — Oakwood Shores — is generating new students to Nile Garden School.

Goatcher said the odds are good that growth around Woodward School may force even more attendance boundary changes as the bulk of home building in the immediate future is near the campus

“The district will not bump students already going to a school to make room for ones that move in (when families buy new homes in subdivisions) even if they are in the established attendance area,” Goatcher pointed out.

The open enrollment rules do have exceptions. The district won’t split up siblings — if one child is already going to a school and the other is about to start . They also allow — if approved on an appeal — those with serious medical issues such as a parent that has cancer and perhaps their caretaker lives in a different school attendance area making it easier for the students to go there. Also teachers and others who work at a particular campus get a priority to have their children go to school there.

Casetta believes an exception should also be made for those who are 8th graders in split schools such as Veritas where some students go to Sierra and others to Manteca.

“They should definitely have priority over students that may live across town and want to attend a different school for some reason,” she said.

Other elementary schools that have 8th graders split between two high schools are Golden West (Manteca and East Union), Nile Garden (Sierra and Manteca), and Stella Brockman (Sierra and Manteca).

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