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Too many requests for school change short circuits family plans for daughter
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Joni Costa said her daughter, who is graduating from eighth grade this school year from St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School, will be home schooled when she starts her secondary education in the fall.

That is not by choice.

Costa and her husband Manuel had decided early on to send their older child to Central Catholic High School in Modesto or St. Mary’s High School in Stockton. Unfortunately, Manuel got hurt on the job, plus the company where he worked as a truck driver in Manteca got sold last year leaving him without a job which forced them to make some changes due to their current fiscal situation.

The Costa family lives in the area covered by Manteca High School; however, for a number of reasons they deemed beneficial to their daughter, they applied to have their older child enroll at East Union High School. She did not get accepted. In fact, she was the only one among her friends who didn’t make it so she was placed on the waiting list.

The Costa family dilemma is among issues that surface this time of year when Manteca Unified is unable to honor all intradistrict requests for students to attend other Manteca Unified School District campuses outside of their assigned home school attendance area.

“I found out that according to the school code, any student assigned to any school other than the first school will be placed on the waiting list. But there’s no waiting list, is what we were told. East Union told us that, and that’s a violation of their own interdistrict policy,” Joni Costa said.

She also is not convinced that a computer-based lottery process was used at East Union in the process of accepting transfer students. Yet, that’s what it states in the letter they received from East Union, she said.

“I don’t see how our district can afford a computer process that can do computer lottery,” she added.

The Bulletin was unable to get a clarification on that at the time this story was being written, which was after 5 p.m.

“Manteca High School has an opening for my daughter because she’s in their district,” Joni Costa explained.

But she said she chose East Union “due to my comfort level for my child. Everybody from St. Anthony’s (School going to EU) got accepted except for her.”

She is aware that some people gave “bogus” addresses – “not bogus but addresses of friends and family so that they could go into East Union,” she said.

“But I told my daughter, we don’t lie to get what we want. We just want to go through proper channels.”

“My freedom of choice has been taken away from me,” Joni Costa said.

She had to place “16 or more phone calls” to the Manteca High, East Union and the school district offices to get some answers. In many cases, she did not get answers right away and had to leave messages for which she’s still waiting for a response.

“St. Anthony’s (School) spoiled me because when I call, I get an answer right away,” she said of her experience at the parochial school.

She and her husband called the school district’s Child Welfare Attendance Director Rupinder Bhatti “to see what we should do.” They got a hold of the director’s assistant who told them that Bhatti “was not available.”

They also filed an appeal at the school district on Monday and are awaiting a response. Joni Costa said they will be at the Board of Education meeting tonight to present their concerns.

“My main issue was, why don’t we have a choice? If they can’t accommodate my child at East Union, why don’t they move the staff? Due to staffing resources, they can’t accommodate my child, from what I was told by teachers at Manteca High. The (teachers) would have to move to another school to accommodate the transfer students that want to go to East Union. So, rather than move teachers to East Union, they are making us not to have a choice in where our child goes,” Joni Costa said.

“Which tells me staff comes before kids which they need to think about, because if there’s no kids, there’s no teachers,” she added.

“I also called Central Catholic and St. Mary’s and told them what happened, and they are more than welcoming to her (their daughter) and willing to accommodate us. However, I don’t want to spend her college money on high school,” Joni Costa pointed out.

After the experience she has been through, the wife and mother of two said her daughter will be neither a Lancer or a Buffalo.

“She’ll be home-schooled. The $333 a day they (school district) get per student, they don’t get it from me,” she said.

Their 11-year-old son who is also attending St. Anthony’s won’t be going to either high school either after this, she added. He will be going to a Catholic high school, she said.