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2009 may bring school closures

Manteca Unified battling $14M deficit

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2009 may bring school closures

Calla High is among the possible school closures that could take place in 2009.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/


POSTED December 29, 2008 12:30 a.m.
Sequoia Annex, in all likelihood, is closing in 2009.
It stands as the most amicable campus closure to help the Manteca Unified School District Board come up with $14 million in budget cuts by July 1.
Principal Jacqui Breitenbucher has repeatedly pointed out the advantages of having the entire Sequoia School student body and staff — kindergarten through eighth grade — together again on the main site. It is something that the parents and staff also seem to be looking forward to seeing happen thanks to Breitenbucher’s efforts to keep everyone abreast of the district’s financial situation and the pros and cons of the possible closure of the Sequoia Annex.
The Sequoia Annex has been closed before. Back in the 1990s when it was known as the Yosemite School, it was closed after enrollment growth slowed when the Joshua Cowell School had been completed. The district kept Cowell closed for a year before deciding to close Yosemite School and opening Cowell. Yosemite School was eventually reopened and renamed the Sequoia Annex.
Closing Sequoia Annex is far from a done deal. The 100-member budget reduction committee formed by the board is meeting Jan. 6-7 to compile a list of Level II and Level II cuts. Preliminary recommendations have been to group Sequoia Annex’s closure with other Level II cuts. Those are the cuts that Acting District Superintendent Jason Messer is hoping the school board accepts in one fell swoop due to the committee’s consensus. Messer, however, believes the board will have to pick from Level III cuts the committee is identifying to reach the $14.5 million in cuts required to balance the budget.
The board is expected to make the final decision on what to cut by early March.

Lathrop Annex, Calla High may be Level II cuts as well
There are two other school closures that may make it as Level II cuts — the Lathrop School Annex and Calla High.
Lathrop School Principal David Silveira noted the community is apt to support closing the Lathrop Annex if it is part of a scheme to keep Lathrop High open by creating a seventh and eighth grade “junior high academy” on the secondary campus. Lathrop High’s closure is the biggest money plum on the various options being examined with savings pegged at $1.4 million.
If Lathrop Annex is closed and the high school isn’t kept open, the other option is to spread seventh and eighth graders at Lathrop School to Mossdale School and Widmer School. If the high school becomes a junior high academy on part of the campus, the district could have an open enrollment for all of the Lathrop elementary school sites for seventh and eighth graders.
The committees examining closures haven’t been just looking at dollars and cents. They’ve gone as far as to note the importance of making sure seventh and eighth graders — should they go to Lathrop High — are bused back to the Lathrop School site in time to walk their younger siblings home.
Calla High is currently a Level II cut. The idea is to combine the program with the New Vision High campus in Weston Ranch. New Vision is newer and even has a multipurpose room.
Even so, the school closure sub-committee noted there would be “territorial issues” between the two distinct groups of students — those from Calla which are Manteca-based and those from New Vision who are primarily Stockton residents.
In all school closures, teaching staff wouldn’t be reduced, just support and administrative staff.
The other school closures advancing to the Jan. 6-7 committee meeting are Level III cuts.
All the schools on the Level III have been identified as having extremely strong community support which could translate into severe acrimonious reactions should the board ultimately opt to close them. That’s not to say there wouldn’t be unhappy people should Lathrop Annex or Calla High close, but the committee didn’t judge them as being as severe.
Heading the list for controversial Level III cuts is Lathrop High.
The community waited for years for their own high school campus, which just opened in August. Closing it would not be well received. Also, the sub-committee was worried about what would happen if Lathrop High students are transferred back top Sierra High or other campuses in terms of disrupting their academic effort and creating potential problems.
Four of the six elementary schools on the Level III list that is going to the full committee are tied into at least one other school.
In other words, either Nile Garden or Veritas could close and either New Haven or Joshua Cowell could close. The other campus in each set would need to take students from the school that closes should that happen.
While Cowell and Veritas are newer schools, both New Haven and Nile Garden have just been renovated.
French Camp School is the oldest elementary campus in the district. It also has the district’s only concentration of Title I students. It is also the only elementary campus with a migrant student calendar. It is also the only school on the possible closure list that has a full After School Program through Give Every Child a Chance. That is significant as it is an after school childcare option for French Camp area families, most of whom have both parents working.
McParland Annex is also on the potential closure list. Closing it, though, would require major school boundary attendance changes involving Neil Hafley, McParland, Stella Brockman, Golden West and Shasta.

A breakdown of possible savings
 A breakdown of the potential savings of closing each school down including vice principal positions the board has already indicated they plan to eliminate are as follows:
• Shuttering Nile Garden with 514 students could save $580,000.
• Closing Joshua Cowell with 540 students could save $384,000.
• Closing Veirtas School could save $517,000.
• Shuttering New Haven could save $633,000.
• Closing French Camp School could save $489,000.
If the board did get down to closing elementary campuses, the most it could realistically save is $1.7 million by closing Nile Garden, New Haven, and French Camp due to the fact that students have to be housed somewhere.
The savings do not factor in the need for security. The only campus currently with a caretaker is Joshua Cowell School. The committee felt all campuses would be vulnerable to vandalism specially Veritas which is across the street from the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley lifestyle center.
Temporarily sending the students from Lathrop High School back to Sierra and Weston Ranch would save $1.4 million.
Closing Manteca Day School would save the district an additional $311,000, while consolidating Calla, New Vision, and Manteca Day would save a total of $665,000.
None of the school closures would cost teaching jobs although here are other issues being considered — such as class-size reduction — that would.
The board has already put in place $5.25 million in cuts. They must now find a way to make cuts that will cover the remaining $8.75 million deficit.
 All of the possible cuts being recommended by the committees are just that — possible cuts. The final call is up to the Manteca Unified board.
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