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Address pressing school needs first
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Every time the student representative for one of the high schools steps up before the Manteca Unified school board and gives an update on how things are going on campus, it’s always positive.
There are sporting events chronicled and dances described and everything is cheery and informative and fun.
Until Tuesday.
Manteca High’s representative followed pretty much the same format until this week. That’s when, speaking on behalf of the student body, she implored the school board to act sooner rather than later when it comes to modernizing the district’s oldest high school.
And it was amazing.
I was as caught off guard as anybody when I went to Manteca High School last week to watch the school board study session that focused on the possibility of installing artificial turf fields at both Guss Schmiedt and Dino Cunial Fields.
East Union says they want it.
But when a number of people representing Manteca High School began to stand up and speak – people like alumnus Jim Rachels and former Principal Steve Winter and head football coach Eric Reis – the tone shifted from the “get it done” attitude to the “we need so much more” attitude that few expected to hear.
Yes, Manteca High needs an overhaul.
The district says that it’ll be 18 months before they can officially spend part of the $159 million in bond money approved by voters in November 2014 to help modernize Manteca High. That’s mostly because that’s the soonest that Manteca High School will be eligible for partial matching funds from the State of California that will maximize the money spent.
The reasoning makes sense. But that’s a long time to make students and those tasked with educating them wait to turn the city’s oldest high school into something that those who attend it can be proud of.
That doesn’t appear to be the case right now.
The word “ghetto” was thrown out by Rachels as the way that most visitors describe the school when they arrive. The overwhelming sense of pride and heritage that teachers and administrators try to drive home into the students goes out the window when that’s the most commonly used term to describe the one place you’re supposed to have the most pride in.
And while it’s an overstatement, there is some truth to it.
Freshman football coach and P.E. teacher Brian Rohles talked about how he was to worry every time he takes his students out onto or across Garfield Avenue  during school hours that he’s going to have to run somebody off that’s wandering down from Moffat Boulevard and a section of the community that doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation.
It wasn’t that long ago that the trailer park directly behind the school’s softball field was a no-man’s land – abuzz with foot traffic at all hours and dozens of squatters that moved their recreational vehicles onto the site, stole power and called it home.
The motels that are within view of the back portion of the campus are notorious.
These are all things that need to be fixed.
But the core of the issue is much simpler.
With so many things that need to be taken care of on aging campuses – East Union included – is it really smart to be spending millions of dollars just so a select few can enjoy the benefits of a top-of-the-line athletic complex?
I played football in high school. And at the time that I was at Sierra, there was no Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium. We played our home games at either East Union High School or Manteca High School, and the Lancers didn’t their have digs for very long before I started.
I ran track too. And while Sierra was a newer school at the time, the decompressed granite track was the standard for area high schools. At the start of the season you had to avoid puddles and the water would wash away the running surface and leave behind – once it dried – a rock hard facility that was punishing for those who had to use it daily. Shin splints were quite common.
I know this makes me sound like an “uphill, both ways” kind of guy, but both were manageable. They weren’t optimal, but they worked.
So is spending upwards of $20 million worth of taxpayer’s money – regardless of which pool of money it comes from – on football stadiums and tracks really the answer?
I don’t think so.
Not when teachers have to worry about vagrants wandering past their students as they move between classes, and students at Nile Garden Elementary School drink water from a massive tank because their well water is too tainted to push through a fountain.
As much as I love sports, there are more pressing issues at hand.
See to those first.