LATHROP – The nearly 11,000 homes that will be constructed at River Islands will drastically alter the landscape of whatever school district ends up serving the students that fall within its boundaries.
And the first steps towards resolving that situation could come as soon as the end of this month.
During a brief presentation to the Lathrop City Council last week, River Island Project Manager Susan Dell’Osso said that the developer has made its intention about possibly pursuing being added to the ranks of the Manteca Unified School District known after it was announced at a board meeting nearly two weeks ago.
The political fallout will likely take months – or longer – to sort through as a handful of agreements are already in place that would send elementary-aged students Banta schools and high school students to Tracy Unified. But a land owner decision, Dell’Osso said, could be filed as soon as the end of this month to skirt any concerns by parents that wouldn’t want to embattle children in a fight that would likely be over the average daily attendance money each district gets to cover the cost of instruction.
Right now, even though home sales have been skyrocketing, the first resident isn’t set to take ownership until Aug. 21. That means that a petition by the landowner requesting a school district priority change could be filed prior to that date and would create paperwork process that will ultimately include Manteca and Tracy Unified and Banta Elementary school districts.
River Islands was incorporated into the City of Lathrop in 1996, and after a series of public housing tract ideas failed to materialize, the land was eventually purchased by a Great Britain development firm that opted to sit on it until the housing conditions were just right for construction and development.
Massive improvements to the Stewart Tract area, including a bridge over the San Joaquin River that needed more than a dozen individual government approvals before work could begin, was cleared before the first rooftop could be a possibility. Some of the strongest levees in the Central Valley were added independent of state requirements, and the development quickly became a model of true long-term planning over the quick-turnaround structure that failed so spectacularly when the market tanked.
How to deal with the remainder of those issues, like where to send students, will likely be a matter of sharper focus as more for driveways start becoming occupied.
According to Dell’Osso, both Banta and Tracy have said that they aren’t in favor of any deviation from the agreements that are currently on record, but the current system splits Lathrop among four districts – the two districts that are set to serve students, Manteca Unified which serves the rest of Lathrop and charter schools which operate independently under the purview of the California Department of Education.
Streamlining that, she said, makes sense. If that is the direction that River Islands chooses to take, they’ll likely be back before the council soon asking for a letter of support from the City of Lathrop while the process clears its legal and governmental hurdles.