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Manteca Unified extends no-bus zones
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Several months ago, the Manteca Unified board of trustees agreed to extend the walking distance to school for all students to an additional half mile as part of the Level II cuts to handle a $23.5 million budget shortfall.
But what the transportation department may be discovering based on several meetings is that walking plan has problems in some areas.
Take Lathrop High, for example.
Access to the campus west of Interstate 5 is only accessible via a narrow two-lane Dos Reis Road. Reflective markers help guide those driving to and from the school currently servicing freshmen and sophomores during the early morning hours, evenings and even foggy conditions.
In order to make the walking plan work, those living on the opposite side of the freeway would like to see the Lathrop Road extension completed.
Students have other hazards, including no sidewalks and unsafe crossing areas along Lathrop Road underneath Interstate 5 and the Manthey Road frontage.
“We commute to work,” said Cynthia Moreno, who attended the meeting held last Tuesday with her fellow Stonebridge subdivision neighbors Carla Calix and Charmaine Barajas. “That means our kids would have to wake up early and walk to school when it’s still dark.”
Besides the Manthey Road frontage and the freeway area, their children would have to walk across Harlan Road to get to school.
Jason Osborn, director of transportation, held several meetings during the past week, with one more scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Manteca High speech arts building.
“All of the meetings have been the same (information),” he said.
Since 2004, Manteca Unified established walking distances for kindergarten- through third- grade students (1 mile); fourth / sixth (1.5 miles); seventh / eighth (2 miles); and ninth- through 12th- grades (2.5 miles).
The district’s walking distance mitigations included the following:
•    Students will not walk over freeway overpasses.
•    Road shoulder and sidewalks must be adequate.
•    Students crossing busy roads will be minimized.
•    High school students can walk to feeder schools for bus pick-up.
The school board, in addition to extending the walking distances, approved for the transportation department to handle special needs students in-house rather than rely on the contracted busing services of First Student as a further cost-cutting measure.
Meanwhile, Osborn will be proposing the board adopt a “no bus zone” to replace the “walking distance” term.
“The term (walking distance) may imply that the district expects students to walk some distance in order to get to school,” he recently said. “But in reality, we would be leaving the decision as to how a student gains access to the site to the family.”
Osborn unveiled the “radius” or, rather, a point drawn around each of the school sites. Inside that radius, for instance, was deemed a “no bus zone.”
This proposed radius consists of a perimeter of about 1.25 miles from the campus for kindergarten- through eighth-grade students, and 2.5 miles for ninth- through 12th-grade students.
“The elimination of school bus service will place the burden (of getting to school) on families,” Osborn added.
Under the plan, Lathrop High, East Union High, Weston Ranch High, Brock Elliott School, George Komure School, Golden West School, Great Valley School, Joseph Widmer School, Mossdale School, Neil Hafley School, Sequoia School, and Shasta School would be among those without bus services.
Osborn noted that Sequoia’s lone bus was shuttle between the main site and annex, which is scheduled to close at the end of the school year, thus, making this service obsolete.
Federal funding in the form of Title 1 could help support the bus services to French Camp School and other underperforming sites in the district, Osborn said.
Information of the “no bus zone” can be found on the district website, or by contacting Manteca Unified at (209) 825-3200.
To reach reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail