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10,500 more homes for MUSD?
River Islands may request annexation this year
River Islands could ask to annex to Manteca Unified this year. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca Unified School District is leaping into a tableful of potential challenges and history-making changes in 2015.

January ushers in a brave new world of technology for the district with the official full launch of the $30 million Going Digital program that is catapulting MUSD across the digital divide into 21st-century learning for its 23,000+ students. Going Digital will give each student a Panasonic 3E laptop computer with the latest programs and online access available today which, for the first time, will put textbooks in the back seat. This technology at the fingertips of students and teachers is significant as well because it will facilitate the deployment of the Common Core standards in the district’s classrooms.

It was this leap into the digital world of learning that was the foremost reason River Islands at Lathrop officials made the surprise move in 2014 to inquire about the development area west of the San Joaquin River becoming part of the Manteca Unified School District. Residents in River Islands are expected to decide early this year whether they want to formally file an application to annex to the Manteca Unified district.

Under the provisions of the 10.1-square-mile River Islands annexation to Lathrop, the incorporated area became part of the small Banta Unified Elementary School District in Tracy, with the students later going to Tracy High School. River Islands Academy, a charter school that opened in River Islands before the first house was even built, is one of several elementary schools planned for this development at build-out. The annexation to Manteca Unified would be a long process that may take years, but the initial salvo has been delivered that signaled the beginning of numerous negotiations and discussions between the school district and River Islands. If it does occur another 10,500 homes ultimately could be built with Manteca Unified boundaries based on River Island’s build out plans.

The utilization and distribution of the $169 million Measure G or school bond that voters in the school district passed in the November 2014 elections is expected to be a continuing subject of discussion during 2015. Before the end of the old year, five schools were already identified as the first to benefit from this bond owing to the dire safety and health structural issues that needed to be immediately addressed at these old campuses. How the rest of the funds will be divvied up among the rest of equally pressing renovation needs of other older schools in the district is expected to cover plenty of discussion mileage before the school board.

Another election-related issue that will dog the district for the next coming months albeit in an indirect manner involve the two newest members of the school board, Trustees Ashley Drain of Area 2 and Alexander Bronson of Area 6. The concern revolves around the candidates’ residential eligibility criterion which clouded the credibility of the two greenhorn trustees who stunningly trounced the re-election bids of 20-year board veteran Manuel Medeiros and then-board president Don Scholl. Complaints about the veracity of the residential addresses submitted by the two school board greenhorns in their candidates’ papers were filed with the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters Office which then forwarded those to the Secretary of State office which is now conducting the investigation. The name of Trustee Sam Fant of Area 1 has been dragged into the picture as well since his name is listed in the election paperwork submitted by Drain and Bronson as the person who verified, or who can verify, the information provided by the two trustees in their election papers.

The investigation is out of the hands of the school district; however, it will be impacted should the result in the investigation involves the removal of Drain and Bronson. The district will then determine, among other things, how to fill those two positions — by appointment or by special election.

With questions brought up in recent months about the use of electronic devices by the trustees during closed and open sessions, the board may also look into updating the Policy 9012 which addresses that issue. Another matter that is expected to merit further scrutiny and possible action by the board is the suggestion that was made at the trustees’ last meeting of 2014 to bring back the twice-monthly meetings of the board.