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6,000 more students by 2020?
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Conditions exist that could increase Manteca Unified enrollment by 25 percent to top 30,000 students by 2020.
Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer said just a matter of a month ago the narrative the district was working on was the anticipated tidal wave of new students from housing developments wouldn’t hit for another  three years or so. The game plan was to prepare for 200 to 300 additional students at max next school year.
However a flurry of signs started popping up in the past few months. Manteca developers have started accelerating home building plans. Existing neighborhoods in Manteca and Lathrop experienced significant upswings in families with school-age children buying or renting existing homes.  Toss in other developments such as Great Valley charter school opting to move their campus from Manteca to Salida and suddenly the future is coming sooner than expected.
Now it is possible the number of additional students next school you could climb between 1,000 and 1,600 or the rough equivalent of two typical Manteca Unified elementary schools. Manteca Unified currently has 23,900 students
“Dealing with growth is going to be the No. 1 priority for the district,” Messer said. “It presents more challenges than just housing students.”
To help bring together a wide a wide variety of housing-related statistics from new home starts to the effective student yield from the resale of existing homes, Messer is asking the Manteca Unified board when they meet Tuesday to discuss and give direction to conduct demographic studies for planning and growth within the district. The board meets at 7 p.m. at the district office, 2271 W. Louise Ave.
Manteca Unified does have some experience with dealing with a major sustained student growth surge to look at. Over six years from 2000 to 2006 Manteca Unified added over 6,000 students to surpass the 20,000 mark. The district added 488 students in 1998-1999. Then the next school year enrollment gain surged by 1,666 students followed by a string of years that saw annual gains of 1,414, 1,563, 1,576, and 1,066 students.
The dynamics this time around are different.
When the last wave hit growth was taking place in Weston Ranch, Manteca, and Lathrop. There was also plenty of college students working toward teaching careers.
“New school space requires more than just facilities,” Messer said. “We need teachers, textbooks, devices, (furnishings), equipment, and support staff.”
This time around California is dealing with a looming acute teaching shortage created by the Great Rescission when major cutbacks hit schools up and down the state forcing teacher layoffs. Not only did most teachers who lost their jobs change careers but college students entering teacher career paths dropped substantially. Expert said the shortage of potential teachers on college career paths is as much as 75 percent below projected needs in the coming years due to retirements, and growth.
Messer indicated that poses significant challenges if growth accelerates as it looks like it will for the next school year.
A number of schools are at maximum capacity at various grade levels. Weston Ranch campuses are full as are Lathrop schools. That takes away one  pressure relief the district had last time of spilling Lathrop growth temporarily for several years by busing students to Weston Ranch campuses.
While Weston Ranch is stable, changing demographics may mean existing homes when they’re sold are generating more students than the homes previously yield. It is a trend that is already happening in established neighborhoods around Woodward School.
Messer said the so-called “yield factor” the number of school-age children a typical house has may be outdated for reasons ranging from younger families to multiple families living in the same house to grandparents raising grandchildren.
At the same time growth is continuing in Lathrop while home building has taken a sharp upturn south of the 120 Bypass.
That means everything will be on the table to address students housing needs.
The list includes among other things:
ubuilding additional classrooms at existing elementary campuses using developer fees and — where possible — Mello Roos taxes.
ubuilding new elementary campuses.
uramping up enrollment at Manteca, Sierra, East Union and Lathrop high schools.
utweaking elementary attendance boundaries.
uyear-round school at select campuses.
ubusing students out of neighborhood school attendance areas.
Messer said developers have stepped up and are working with the district to address part of the facilities funding needs. He also noted a stronger working relationship has been established between the school, district and the City of Manteca.
And while Measure M projects are being designed so additional classrooms could be added at virtually every elementary campus with relative ease based on layout, Messer stressed none of the bond money will be spent on new classroom capacity.
Messer said community facilities are just a part of what the district needs to address.
Manteca and Lathrop are part of a region that more and more Bay Area families are looking at to buy and rent due to sky high prices and housing shortages exacerbated by a lack of developable land. The Northern San Joaquin Valley is the lowest priced housing relief area. The others are south of San Jose, the Sacramento area and the North Bay.