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Manteca High, downtown & the chance of a lifetime

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POSTED September 18, 2017 1:26 a.m.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the City of Manteca? 

uTaking downtown Manteca to the next level.

uRevitalizing Moffat Boulevard.

uComing up with adequate funding for amenities. 

uTying new development south of the 120 Bypass with the established community north of the freeway.

uFinding new ways to keep ongoing general fund costs under control.

And what are some of the biggest challenges facing the Manteca Unified School District?

uTaking the school district to the next level.

uRevitalizing Manteca High.

uComing up with adequate funding for school facilities.

uFinding ways to keep growth from causing the district’s sense of community from breaking apart.

uFinding new ways to keep ongoing general fund costs under control.

Those are 10 among many reasons why the next year or so are critical to the future of both the City of Manteca and the Manteca Unified School District when it comes to launching the second 100 years of the Manteca High campus.

The City Council and school board have started exploring joint ventures involving Manteca High.

But before recapping the possibilities, the pitfalls need to be addressed.

Specifically, there has been talk — right or wrong — of the city not getting its fair use of elementary campus multipurpose rooms built by funds from the school district and the city to secure state funds to build a community-use facility. The beef made over the years by staff on the front line is that when the city wants the facilities in more than a few cases they aren’t available to the city.

For starters, the working agreement makes it clear when the school district has priority. The problem is some of those winter times that the recreation department may or may not have been able to secure use of a community multi-purpose gym for their programs are when the school needs it for after school activities.

Publically, no one says this is an issue but enough grumbling has occurred over the years that it needs to be addressed.

Going back to the original funding, city leaders at the time were less than enthusiastic as it required them to come up with money from city sources to match the school district funds to secure the state money. It was money, the city insisted, they did not have.

Then Manteca Unified Business Manager Jerry Ogden came up with a way to make it work. The city would “advance” redevelopment agency split funds the district was legally entitled to cover the city’s share. In other words, money legally due the MUSD down the road was used to cover the city’s match.

From the outside looking in, if the gripes are legitimate it is because of the primary use of the facility by the school district makes such conflicts inevitable. That is not the case with what is being explored at Manteca High in conjunction with Lincoln Park and Lincoln Elementary School.

If the city and school district see the three sites — the two campuses and the park — as one in terms of planning for school and community facilities the outcome could be much better for the two government agencies supported by the same taxpayers.

There are three — and perhaps four — common needs in terms of facilities that are duplicated yet the times they would be used do not overlap. They are a performing arts center, swimming pool/aquatics center, baseball/softball fields, and a gym.

It makes no sense to have a city owned facility to sit unused when the same exact type of facility owned by the school is in use and then for the exact opposite to happen,

Swimming pool use does not overlap. Performing arts center use does not overlap. Gym use (assuming the city is running programs on Saturdays and Sunday) does not overlap. Softball/baseball fields do overlap for a short time in the spring but that’s it.

The city is considering replacing the 60-year-old Lincoln Pool and is looking at an aquatics center. A Manteca High campus planned for 2,200 students has an inadequate older pool. The city basically uses a swimming pool for the months that school is out.  Why build two swimming pools at $3 million apiece for the city and the school district translating into $6 million for the taxpayers when you could build one swimming pool for $3 million? The split, based on months of use, would be $2.25 million for the district and $750,000 for the city. And if the city wanted an aquatics center, they would have to pick up the tab beyond that point except for two items — parking which isn’t cheap and the land.

The performing arts center remodel could be approached differently. While the district has to address safety and modernization issues, whatever the city can contribute to provide needed stage and support space as well as additional seating could be counted toward their share of evening and weekend use. Not only is parking already provided, but the city would have something downtown that Tracy, Lodi, Stockton, Livermore, and Modesto all have as a draw to bring in business to help support restaurants and such — a performing arts center.

The city and school district would share ongoing upkeep and maintenance for the joint use facilities to reduce costs for each agency while saving taxpayers money.

Manteca High’s modernization and reconfiguration to increase capacity to 2,200 students provides the city with a unique, once-in-a-life chance to propel downtown forward while creating untold opportunities for the district to expand the classroom walls through such things as a student run café along Yosemite Avenue.

 

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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