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Manteca Unified offering no-bus exemptions
Those kicked off the bus by Manteca Unified to save money may get back on if they meet certain criteria. - photo by Bulletin file photo
Tuowanda Salgado hopes the no-bus zone exemption will apply in her case.

She’s the mother of three youngsters – age 13, 12, and 7 – attending Veritas School.

The Salgados reside south of the Highway 120 Bypass, just east of South Airport Way between Atherton Drive and East Woodward Avenue.

They’re also within the 1.25 miles from Veritas. That’s the radius adopted by the Manteca Unified School District last June as part of the Level II budget cuts for elementary school students. High school students living within a 2.5-mile radius of campus are responsible for furnishing their own transportation.

“There’s no safe route to school,” Salgado said at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

The only access is via narrow two-lane Woodward Avenue that has traffic traveling at 55 mph, no sidewalks, no shoulder, and no street lights.

She expressed her concerns at previous sessions but to no avail. Salgado, who produced a petition consisting of 125 signatures on the matter, also expressed her frustration to the Manteca City Council.

She was told by city leaders that sidewalks along sections of Woodward Avenue are still at least two years away. But Salgado was able to get her children aboard the Manteca Transit Authority’s pilot route. Her youngsters pay 75 cents each one-way to take the city bus from the Purple Sage / Sparrow head stop to Pagola / Woodward (close to the front of the school) in the mornings.

“I’m grateful that we have it,” said Salgado, who has some safety concerns about after school since the bus is still part of public transportation.

The school bus would remedy those concerns.

But in order to qualify for the exemption, her case must meet one or more of the following:

•The bus must already travel upon the roadway in which the exception is requested.

•There must be sufficient space on the bus for the students at the excepted stop.

•The additional stop must provide space for enough students to warrant the stop.

•There must be a hardship.

•Exception may be granted as long as space is available and will not extend beyond the current school year. The exception may be removed at any time if space availability decreases with re-application necessary each school year to have the stop considered or reconsidered for the exception. The student can also board at a pre-established bus stop.

For Salgado, that pre-established bus stop is in Bella Vista Park. But in order to get there, her children must cross South Airport Way and walk two blocks.

“But there are no cross walks (from our home),” she said.

Meanwhile, Joanna de Graaf, who also helped out three non-English speaking families, applied for the exemption on Aug. 17 attached with letters.

Their children attend New Haven School, where traffic along South Austin Road has been busier than usual with more cars – that’s due in part to fewer buses at New Haven – adding to the congestion along the already busy rural route.

Officially, the district exemption is scheduled to begin today with processing taking up to 10 days.

But the New Haven folks, after already filling out the necessary forms, simply can’t wait.

“It’s very dangerous, very dangerous,” de Graaf said.

Trustee Nancy Teicheira agreed.

“I went to New Haven and there are a lot of problems there,” she said.

Superintendent Jason Messer is hoping the solution can come in a timely manner.

“We will do our best to expedite the situation,” he added.

Information on the exemption request can be obtained by contacting the district office at (209) 825-3200.