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What happened to health & safety first?

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POSTED February 20, 2016 12:26 a.m.

Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
In reference to the article “The MHS Challenge” on Friday’s front page I think that the real challenge is the need to rehabilitate the Manteca Unified School District Master Facilities Plan, especially when one reads in it that Manteca High is eligible for modernization as of 2014.
 Health and Safety were the fundamentals focused on by the Measure G campaign. MUSD identified $35 million of needs in this area which it defined as: “Includes areas and items that pose a health or safety risk to students, staff or community.” Instead of addressing these needs first, MUSD prioritized $40 million for Going Digital from the unrestricted reserves. Now MUSD is spending $56 million from bond funding to modernize five elementary sites. All but one of these sites has considerably less health and safety needs than Manteca High. The exception is Lathrop Elementary which needs 1$1.2 million for field safety and $4.8 million for replacing unsafe portables.
 The 2014 Master Facilities Plan lists MHS in Exemplary Condition, the same rating given to Sierra High. Despite a 43 year difference in age only $600,000 more is identified as needed by MHS than Sierra. Exemplary is defined as “… the school meets most or all standards of good repair. Deficiencies noted, if any, are not significant …”. Yet $1 million of maintenance is identified as necessary to fix the toilets at MHS which recently met district office standards though not student expectations.
 Objective 10 of MUSD is “Continue to support efforts to improve existing school facilities so that these facilities remain safe and effective places to learn”. Reviewing deferred maintenance funding does not show a commitment to this objective. Unlike other districts MUSD no longer has a fund dedicated to only deferred maintenance. Prior to the ending of this fund in 2011 MUSD went from a high of $2 million to a low of $300,000. The totals seem to be far below the state standards for deferred maintenance which probably accounts for the $93 million of deferred maintenance identified in the Facilities Plan.
 The trapping of 200 gophers in three days at Weston Ranch High is another indication that the Integrated Pest Management aspect of maintenance has been buried by other priorities such as Going Digital. The Board majority has finally addressed this safety concern for the stadium field. Though I am in favor of well-maintained sand based grass fields I can understand the choice of artificial turf given how the lack of maintenance resulted in the loss of the community improved native soil grass field at MHS. However other fields at WRHS and many other sites remain unsafe.
 As our trustees address MUSD’s many challenges I hope that they prioritize local staff and student safety over global corporations and problematic devices. I trust that they will learn the lessons of approving Going Digital from a one page plan and a Facilities Plan without community workshops. I urge that they be more like the MHS football team and improve their ground game with safe fields for every elementary and high school site before continuing with ‘The sky is the limit’.
 
Léo Bennett-Cauchon
Manteca

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