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River Islands wants to join MUSD
Complex reorganization process could take years
River Islands at Lathrop has started building the first of what ultimately will be 10,800 homes. - photo by HIME ROMERO

River Islands at Lathrop wants to be in the Manteca Unified School District.

The developers of the 10,800-home planned community on Stewart Tract in the southwestern-most section of Lathrop are “very impressed” with Manteca Unified’s $30 million Going Digital project and would like to be a part of that.

They also recognize that “community identity is important to the kids” and believe that this proposal would be a step in the right direction. The students would be attending schools in the same school district, from kindergarten to high school, instead of being scattered in three different districts which is the current situation at River Islands. Four school districts currently serve the city, with the rest of Lathrop east of the San Joaquin River falling under the Manteca Unified jurisdiction.

River Islands’ annexation to Lathrop in 1996 placed it under two school districts: Banta Elementary for the primary and middle-school levels, and Tracy Unified for the high school grades. A third district was added two years ago when an independent charter was established for the opening of the K-6/K-8 River Islands Technology Academy.

Normally, this “reorganization,” which is what the process of being detached from one jurisdiction and annexed to another is being called, would require residents in the affected area to file a petition to get the ball rolling. But since River Islands does not have “any people yet” even though it already has a school, the law allows the developers to be the one to get the process started.

The first residents at this master-planned community are expected to move in on Aug. 21 when the first home will be occupied, River Islands Project Manager Dell’Osso announced at the Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night when the “potential reorganization” was presented.

“We’re on the upswing now and we’re excited,” Dell’Osso said.

At build-out, the master-planned community of 10,800 residential units will have a total of nine schools – eight elementary and middle schools, and one high school – with one school expected to be built every two years, she added. 

She also assured school district officials they will pick up all associated costs that will be incurred in the process. As has been demonstrated throughout the history of River Islands at Lathrop, they have always “paid our fair share,” she told district officials.

It was emphasized by both the River Islands representatives and school district officials that Tuesday night’s discussion was only an “investigation” and “exploration” process. However, a petition for reorganization could be filed in September “if we chose to come forward,” Dell’Osso said.

Although the reorganization presentation was placed under action items on the board agenda, the board was not mandated to make any decision pertaining to the process itself. The board members were simply asked to give the district staff direction on what to do with the proposal. It was listed as an action item on the agenda on the advice of the district’s legal counsel, explained Superintendent Jason Messer who said the proposed reorganization is “potentially a very costly process.”

The board voted to give the district’s legal counsel the green light to actively get involved in the reorganization process, and for the superintendent to schedule special study sessions regarding this matter.

Breaking up with Banta and Tracy Unified and hooking up with Manteca Unified could take years to complete, and is very complicated, said Dell’Osso.

Involved in the reorganization will be the developers (in the absence of residents filing the petitions), the affected school districts and cities, the San Joaquin County Office of Education, the County Committee on School District Organization, and the California Board of Education.

If the proposed territory transfer passes all the basic steps in the process, the next step is for it to go through the election process where it must receive a majority vote to be successful. Trustees may be elected at this time, explained legal counsel Benjamin C. Rosenbaum who gave the reorganization presentation.

Because the process is legally complicated which involves “significant work,” Rosenbaum said the proposed reorganization could “potentially take years.”

Messer said the initial step was made by River Islands’ developers who approached him and broached the subject of a possible reorganization but that “no steps have been taken by the district to start, support, or oppose any process.’