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Ripon wrestles with impact of schools serving future Manteca city students
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RIPON – Ripon Unified could end up servicing at least 1,000 new households even though the properties will be located inside of Manteca’s city limits.

During a joint meeting Monday of the Ripon City Council, the Ripon Unified Board, and the Ripon Consolidated Fire District Board the topic of the proposed Austin Road Business Park prepared in Manteca with upwards of 1,500 living units – two-thirds of which would located within Ripon Unified’s service area – was discussed.

Whether that number remains where it is or increases could be determined by the outcome of the studies currently underway.

Being organized as an effort to foster unity and future symmetry among the communities that comprise the ag-rich valley, the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint process will place a large emphasis on shaping the future growth in communities that are developing primarily in communities that at one time existed solely to support the existing agriculture operations in the region.

Depending on the outcome of the process – which is being sponsored by almost a dozen individual government groups including the San Joaquin Council of Governments and the Great Valley Center – the overall attitude towards things like affordable and cost-effective housing could be affected and, some fear, could end up leading to the push for even higher housing densities.

“So with that the project could possibly end up being 3,000 units if smart growth plans were to be adopted?” asked Fire Board Director Don Moyer. “Because if that’s the case, then maybe we should look to get some of our legislators involved with the process to see what they can possibly do.”

But the concept of how the upper San Joaquin Valley directly impacts the southern portions outside – with the exception of air quality – is something that some aren’t buying.

Councilman Garry Krebbs told the panel that he felt the Bay Area should be considered as the major area that impacts areas like Stockton, Manteca, and Modesto because of the close proximity for commuters, and that the southern areas like Fresno and Kern Counties aren’t likely to be impacted by development that occurs in other areas.

The influx of students that a complete build-out would put on Ripon Unified is something that the Board of Education is trying to address as they plan for the future.

California’s current financial situation – which is forcing the district to deal with reserves that will likely shrink dramatically over the next three years – isn’t making things any easier, and the fact that Ripon High School is landlocked and has little room for expansion only adds to the predicament.

Mayor Chuck Winn said that after checking with Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston and Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford for what they would like to see happen in terms of the blueprint, the majority of the communities in the Valley’s northern section all feel the same way about the process.

Winn also reminded those in attendance that the anti-sprawl bill SB375 could drastically change the planning process in California and further impact how development occurs in every region of the state.