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Schools: Security & safety
Projects driven by need, dollar maximization
An existing video security camera at Shasta School located on the school multipurpose room. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Jason Messer remembers the Bank of America armed robbery in September of 2009.

Three suspects fled toward Manteca High a few blocks away after encountering police.

The Manteca Unified School District superintendent said the Manteca High campus went into lockdown. Police believed they had cornered the suspects in a nearby home but they weren’t sure.

As a precaution students were being evacuated to the football field area and sent home. Messer, who was on campus to assist and observe, took note of serious security problems including the fact the campus was unfenced at the time along the entire length of Sherman Avenue and that the concrete ramp for the special education room was too short for a quick and orderly evacuation.

A number of changes were instituted shortly afterwards including additional fencing and a longer access ramp.

Security and the safety of students became a front burner district issue from that point forward.

It is why campus security and student safety is being targeted with proceeds from the $159 million Measure G bond measure.

The goal is to make campuses as secure as possible for everything from an active police action in the area where they are pursuing an armed suspect to severely reducing the chances of an unauthorized individual getting onto campus without passing through the office first.

Messer said it is common for non-custodial parents to try and pick up kids during school hours. In some cases they could do so without ever passing the office.

An example is Shasta School where a number of portable classrooms were put in place before you reach the office.

“Many things in the past were done the least expensive way without giving any thought to security,” Messer said.

As portables are removed, some situations will improve.

On some campuses, it may require relocating the school office to improve safety and security or reorienting major movements of people and vehicles.

In the case of the 1950s-era Lincoln School it may mean the student drop off and pickup may be relocated to the western part of the campus to avoid the congestion and safety issues that come with the current drop off point bordering busy Yosemite Avenue.

Deputy Superintendent Clark Burke noted all safety and security concerns are being analyzed at each campus as projects go forward. 

Burke noted that by methodically going over each school’s needs and either addressing them when other work is taking place or as a package bid at multiple campuses, the district can secure better prices and therefore “maximize dollars.”

Equally important in determining what projects go forward first is whether they qualify for partial state reimbursement which would further stretch the $159 million school bond.

“There are narrow windows of eligibility,” Clarke said of qualifying for state funding.

The first bonds are expected to be sold in May with initial projects going to bid shortly thereafter.

Some work such as better security cameras can now take place thanks to the much larger servers put in place as part of the Going Digital initiative. Server capacity was a serious issue before the Going Digital expansion.

  The first modernization projects will take place at Sequoia, Golden West, Lathrop Elementary, Lincoln, and Shasta schools. 

All five elementary schools have concerns with the current location of their respective offices that are considered detrimental to campus and student safety.

The campuses also have older portables that have fallen into disrepair that will be removed and replaced. The campuses also have buckling or failing asphalt that will also be addressed.

At Sequoia School, one of the projects will be to secure the building core with fencing.

A new on-site parking is on tap for Lathrop School.

Lincoln School does not have a multi-purpose building or gym, so that will be added to the list of modernization projects.

Dry rot, leaky roofs, and fire alarms are among the other repairs that will be taking place at Sequoia School.