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Ethel Allen next school in Lathrop
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LATHROP – The ambitious Richland Planned Communities envisioned in the area west of Interstate 5 between Mossdale Landing and Klo Road may be gone for good. But not some of the things that were set in place in anticipation of the major development project that went bust with the last Great Recession.

The Central Lathrop Specific Plan, which is what this development area is called, remains awaiting the next great building project to pick up where Richland left off.

Lathrop High School, built before a single shovel of dirt was turned in what was going to be Richland Communities, is the single completed project to come out of this development area.

But there’s another property of the Manteca Unified School District that will be there when development resumes in this part of west Lathrop. It’s a K-8 school site that has been named Ethel Allen Elementary in honor of one of Lathrop’s earliest principals. Located at the confluence of three major thoroughfares – McKee Boulevard, Barbara Terry Boulevard, and Homestead Drive – the campus site is north of River Islands Parkway, formerly known as West Louise Avenue.

While plans for the two other elementary sites identified in the Central Lathrop Specific Plan are murky at this point after the crash of the Richland project, Manteca Unified School District Superintendent Jason Messer said the Ethel Allen School will be constructed as planned.

“We will eventually build the school there. We know we will need it,” Messer said.

However, as to when that will happen will depend on how soon building will start anew in this development area. The wheels already have been turning leading to this end, both on the part of the City of Lathrop and the school district. Lathrop has been working on a new small-lot tentative map for Central Lathrop. This will be the first new tentative map for this specific-planned area in several years. When this tentative map is forwarded to the school district, Manteca Unified will then decide and confirm how many school locations it will need to serve this development area.

The district, at the same time, is currently working on a master facilities plan which is expected to be finalized in two months, with the draft expected to be completed in November. With that plan and its projections still not available, Messer said that the “guesstimate at this point” as to which of the future school sites will be built first, will be either the Ethel Allen in Lathrop or one of the planned schools south of the 120 Bypass. The latter could mean any of the identified future campus sites in this south Manteca area. So that could be Rustic School on South Airport Way, or the future school involved in the land swap between Manteca Unified and Atherton (the nine-acre Union Ranch on North Union Road west of Woodbridge at Del Webb and the eight-acre Tesoro site along Van Ryn Avenue in exchange for a 17-acre site at Woodward and McKinley). Negotiation talks on this land swap are still ongoing. The district will start working on the next school building project wherever the next housing development will occur, Messer said.

In the Central Lathrop Specific Plan that was approved in 2006, the other two K-8 campuses that were identified were located south of Lathrop High School – one just across Dos Reis from the high school, and the other on the south side of De Lima Road.