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Manteca Unified starts working on its own vocational charter school
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The proposed Vocational Education Charter School of the Manteca Unified School District moved a step closer to reality Tuesday night when the Board of Trustees gave the green light for staff to start developing the program.

The vocational school would be comprised of grades 11 to 13, which means interested high school juniors would be brought into the three-year program and receive their high school diplomas and/or an Associate in Arts or Sciences (AA or AS) degree after finishing 13th grade.

Once they get on board the program, the students would have four fields of study to choose from in order to receive an AS or an AA: medical, industrial technology/fabrication, law enforcement, and culinary arts, Superintendent Jason Messer explained to the board.

“There’s a job market out there” for these skills, he said.

Students finishing the program also would be earning one year’s worth of college credits.

“The idea is to have them employable in one of these areas,” Messer said.

He also assured the Board of Trustees, “You’ll have complete control of the charter.”

Additionally, he explained, “The only reason for chartering is to get additional funding from the state.”

The additional funding would apply to the extra one year – 13th grade – in the vocational program.

“We’ll keep those students as ours,” Messer said, referring to the 13th-grade students in the charter school.

California law allows the continued funding of ADA (average daily attendance) funds for students who have not yet graduated, which would be the case for those enrolled in the district’s vocational charter school.

The board’s unanimous vote in directing administration staff to start developing the foundation and structure of the vocational school was the official signal for the superintendent to attend a charter school conference to find out what needs to be done including how to obtain the funds for it.

There were additional areas that the board wanted the superintendent to explore in the establishment of the vocational charter school.

Trustee Manuel Medeiros, who has been a very vocal proponent for vocational studies in the school district, wondered if the students in the program would be allowed to “stay at their own schools” where they already have shops for them to use “instead of bringing them over here” at the district office.

Part of the charter school proposal is to have the charter school student attend classes at the district complex on Louise Avenue.

The superintendent agreed that transportation could be a part of the research process in establishing the charter school. He also added that some of the students in the vocational school could “potentially” be attending some classes at Delta College in Stockton.

Messer also said that another challenge in Medeiros’ suggestion is that while there are no teachers at the high school sites to teach the vocational classes, although there may be some who can.

Another thing that needs to be explored prior to opening the vocational school is the issue of co-enrollment which would allow those in the vocational charter school to continue their involvement in sports and cheerleading, for example.

In response to a question from Trustee Don Scholl, Messer said that he and his district staff will also explore the idea of informing students that they will have an extra year after the 12th grade if they enroll in the charter school.

The Manteca Unified School District would be the latest to join the band wagon of agencies starting specialized charter schools. The K-12 Delta Charter School of New Jerusalem School District in Tracy has recently partnered with Humphreys College in Stockton to start ABLE which stands for Academy of Business, Law and Education. The curriculum for the school, which opened in late September, will concentrate on “career pathways” in business, law and education offered in an early-college format. ABLE students also will benefit from internships with local businesses, college-level coursework and a curriculum that is infused in technology to further advance the students’ employability and success in the work place.