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Road opening will ease safety issues for Lathrop High students walking
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Jason Messer is anticipating the opening of the Lathrop Road extension equipped with lights prior to the start of the 2009-10 school year.

“We’ve been working with the City of Lathrop,” said the Manteca Unified superintendent at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

The still-under-construction street between the Manthey Road frontage and Lathrop High is an important part of the ‘no bus zone’ plan that’s being proposed by Jason Osborn of the transportation department.

The ‘no bus zone’ would replace the term ‘walking distance’ in reference to the board-approved additional half-mile - or, as board member Vern Gebhardt puts it, “two extra laps around the track” - for all students based on previously established policy on home-to-school distances.

Osborn’s proposal measures the radius around each of the school sites, with 1.25 miles set for kindergarten-through-eighth-grade youngsters, and 2.5 miles for high school students.

At Lathrop High, the only access road to the first-year high school located west of Interstate 5 is Dos Reis Road, making it difficult for students to walk to school. In this case, the completion of Lathrop Road to the campus would be a key part of the district’s plan.

In order to address a $23.5 million budget shortfall, trustees agreed to make several Level II item cuts including changes in transportation.

The increased walking distance could come at a savings of $315,000 as fewer buses would be in operation.

Those attending the recent community meetings at each of the comprehensive high schools expressed safety concerns, conflict with work schedule, and added vehicle traffic.

Osborn said that, according to statistics, every bus removed from service equals 36 cars impacting the loading and unloading zones at schools.

As for safety?

“We’re working on establishing safe routes,” Messer said.

Trustees can approve the plan at their June 9 session.

Thus far, they agreed to charge a transportation fee for prep athletes that could generate $22,500.

Students participating in one or more sports will pay $75 good for the entire year. Bob Lee, senior director of secondary education, estimates a total of about 300 students involved in prep sports at Manteca High, East Union High, Sierra High, Weston Ranch High, and Lathrop High.

In addition, the district will take over from First Student in transporting special needs students as part of the cost-saving plan.