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Get ready for $159M school bond
Money would go to aging Manteca Unified schools
Aging schools are prompting a $159 million school bond for Manteca Unified School District. - photo by HIME ROMEO

A $159 million bond measure is likely to be placed on the ballot in November by the Manteca Unified School District.

There were actually two amounts recommended which were floated during an informational discussion on the matter Wednesday at the district office: $152 million and $159 million. The exact number will be determined on Tuesday when the Board of Trustees at their regular July meeting will hold further discussion prior to taking an action.

As large as the bond amount sounds, it does not come close to how much it would cost the school district to meet the structural needs of aging schools and other district facilities, many of which have serious health and safety concerns such as the removal of asbestos, replacing leaky roofs, and repairing buckling concrete walkways or high-traffic campus areas that have been prone to flooding.

A project list draft presented during a board meeting in January of this year showed that a total of $566,090,877 would be needed to accomplish all those that are recommended for repairs. It should be noted, however, that the guesstimated total cost includes new construction projects which have the highest price tags and will not be getting any share from the proposed new bond.

These new schools in the pipeline and their current price tags are the following:

• Ethel Allen Elementary (K-8) west of Interstate 5 in Lathrop — $26 million.

• Another new K-8 elementary school in North Lathrop west of I-5 in the area formerly known as Richland Communities, and still unnamed. Estimated price tag for this new construction project is $30 million.

• Rustic School, K-8, planned for south of the 120 Bypass in Manteca — $26 million.

• A new high school campus on Tinnin Road in south Manteca off of Woodward Avenue — $80 million.

• Tara Park, a K-8 elementary school south of Woodward Avenue where it T-intersects with McKinley Avenue — $26 million. This is the campus that was involved in a property swap last year after the district ditched plans to build annex schools at the Union Ranch Properties on north Union Road and at the Tesoro residential project on Van Ryn Avenue, formerly Spreckels Road. The combined total acreage of the two annex campuses equaled the size of the agricultural property on Tara Park that the district received in the swap. Union Ranch and Tesoro were given back to the developers of the residential projects where they are located.

These new school projects were held back in the wake of the mortgage meltdown and the Great Recession. With the housing construction screeching to a halt, there was no need to build new schools.

The $566,090,877 upgrade and renovation price tag also includes the $30 million pegged for the Going Digital project whose goal is to have all schools in the district go wireless with the latest state-of-the-art Internet technology.

Early discussions on the new bond measure indicated that all the money generated will be used for repairs and upgrades of existing schools in the district. An independent survey commissioned by the school district showed that 68 percent of the eligible voters polled said they would approve the amount level of $159 million for the purpose of upgrading and repairing existing schools.

The randomly selected voters interviewed in the poll live in Manteca, Lathrop, French Camp, Weston Ranch and unincorporated county areas within the district’s geographical area. The names were picked from San Joaquin County voter files.

Like the $64 million Measure M bond that voters approved ten years ago, this new measure will include a specific list of the projects that it will be used for, said board president Don Scholl. The money will not be used for new-school constructions but to upgrade existing school facilities that are facing health and safety issues, he said.

“The goal is to meet the need in the district,” added Scholl.