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Harnessing Manteca High to strengthen downtown
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A once in a lifetime opportunity is nearing for the City of Manteca and the Manteca Unified School District.
Sometime within the next 18 to 24 months planning will start in earnest on how best to remodel and re-configure Manteca High so it can be an effective campus in meeting the education needs of students for its second hundred years.
All of the plans Manteca has invested in over  the years for downtown have failed to take into account the impact — and the resources — of the central district’s largest employer, largest landowner, and largest generator of destination traffic. The Manteca High campus is within the generally accepted boundaries of downtown which is Fremont Avenue on the east. And if you go with Powers Avenue as some argue it brings Lincoln School under the downtown umbrella as well.
There is no other downtown in a community over 20,000 in the 209 region where a high school campus is situated as close to the heart of a downtown as Manteca High is. And none of the cities that people keep saying they want downtown Manteca to emulate — Livermore, Pleasanton, and Lodi — have a high school campus three blocks from the middle of their downtowns.
Manteca Unified is also the biggest player in another targeted city area — the Moffat Boulevard corridor.
There are issues with Garfield Avenue and campus security as well as whether it makes more sense for safety and flow to have Manteca High front on Moffat Boulevard once bond work is completed. At the same time ways of possible expanding Lincoln School and flowing the campuses together in some manner via Lincoln Park have some real possible advantages for the schools, the city, the community, and neighbors.
Manteca High also happens to have the only theater/stage-style facility in downtown — the Dorothy Mulvihill Performing Arts Center — that happens to face Yosemite Avenue.
Up until 18 years ago, the performing arts center was used to stage community theater productions and even drama offerings through Manteca Parks and Recreation.
A city-school partnership could not only set the stage for a community theatre program to be launched — Manteca is the largest city in the Northern San Joaquin Valley without one — but it could also be utilized for community concerts.
At the same time a well-oiled working relationship could open opportunities for the community to more actively embrace Manteca High’s performances.
Downtown boosters have said Manteca needs more restaurants. This might sound a tad far-fetched but what about the possibility of an expanded culinary arts program offering lunch in a nearby storefront or even a student run coffee house complete with after school or early evening low-key musical performances, poetry readings, and art shows?
What isn’t far-fetched is thinking out of the box to harness the pull that Manteca High has with its 1,500 plus current students and the families and others they draw to sporting events and such. Thinking of ways to intertwine the school with downtown would benefit both the school and downtown.
First and foremost the city needs to work with Manteca Unified to enhance campus safety plus make it possible for Manteca High to enjoy increased vibrancy plus have the ability to plan for a campus of between 1,800 and 2,100 to accommodate growth by permanently closing a section of Garfield Avenue.
It would also help to avoid the balkanization of Manteca as the campus could serve more of the coming growth of the 120 Bypass to assure newcomers don’t view what’s north of the freeway that cuts through town as “the other Manteca.”
To make that happen, the 42-acre campus needs to be made whole with the district obtaining ownership of Garfield from Mikesell Street to just north of Moffat Boulevard.
Manteca’s elected leaders and key municipal and school district staff can’t afford to dilly dally too much.
 The campus is being earmarked the lion’s share of earmarked Measure G funds — $30 million.
But that isn’t enough to bring all aspects of the campus that essentially has a combination of five eras of school buildings up to 21st century expectations. But what it will do is make basic design changes to allow additional investment into Manteca High as the community grows.
 The bottom line is this: Manteca Unified within the next few years is going to make the biggest investment in the downtown area that has ever been made.
The city and school district only get one opportunity to do it right as what happens down the road will be built in what is put in place in the next four or five years.
Keep in mind that if the entrance to Manteca High is orientated to Moffat Boulevard, it will help leverage the revitalization of that corridor.
The district has indicated everything is being looked at including two-story classroom buildings in order to set the stage for the best possible results. That also happens to include the Lincoln campus that could one day be 1,000 students strong pulling in student from growth areas to further strengthen the educational offerings. Lincoln School currently is home to Manteca Little League. Imagine what can be done with the city and school district looking at the athletic facilities, Lincoln Park, and the Lincoln School fields as one package serving multiple constancies.
Manteca High work won’t happen until the third wave of Measure G projects. The district is currently remodeling five campuses and will soon be gearing up for specific plans for the next round.
That is why the time for everyone to sit down and examine the possibilities is now before the opportunity is lost.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email