Starting Monday the section of Garfield Avenue that slices through the Manteca High campus from Mikesell Avenue to a point north of Moffat Boulevard will no longer be open as a public street.
In the coming months the City of Manteca will work on the final legal details that officially abandons the street while preserving the easement for buried municipal water, storm, and sewer lines.
The city accelerated its efforts to turn the street over to Manteca Unified School District so they can step up campus security after a lockdown was triggered in January when a homeless person was spotted on school grounds with a long knife strapped to his leg after he accessed the campus after walking down Garfield Avenue.
The immediate impacts will mean the gates now in place will no longer open for through traffic after school lets out, on weekends or during the summer.
The school district’s ultimate goal as part of a $40 million campus makeover targeted to start in December that will address healthy, safety, and modernization issues as well as situating the campus to accommodate 2,200 students from new growth is to secure the entire campus with wrought iron fence. The 98-year-old campus currently has 1,600 students.
District Superintendent Jason Messer noted wrought iron is being used to stop individuals — mostly homeless — from using bolt cutters to cut chain ink fencing to take shortcuts at night through sections of the campus to reach popular gathering places for the homeless at Lincoln Park as well as to travel to areas where they bed down at night.
School personnel in recent years have had to sweep the campus after finding homeless sleeping in and around the stadium as well as behind bushes along Garfield Avenue.
The fence cutting had become so prevalent that the district was forced to put in gates for the homeless to use to illegally trespass in a bid to stop the ongoing fence vandalism.
The City Council in February of 2010 authorized the district to place steel gates to allow the road to be closed temporarily during the school day.
The gates were placed in the road just south of Mikesell Avenue near the main gym at the northern edge of the student parking lot south of the swimming pool.
Traffic and the safety of students walking across Garfield Avenue during the school day to reach classes drove the district’s request in 2010. The district was required to provide insurance coverage to protect the city from liability.
There were no objections voiced eight years ago to the temporary street closure during the school day by either nearby residents or businesses. There are no homes or other private property along the stretch that is now being closed to traffic permanently.
As it stands now about 20 classrooms on the eastside of Garfield Avenue during a lockdown have a high vulnerability as the only protection to secure that part of the campus is by locking the classroom doors. Based on the fact anyone can still walk down the section of Garfield Avenue where the gates are located prompted the school to require the classrooms east of Garfield to be locked when classes are in session. School monitors pay particular attention to the Garfield Avenue area as it allows wide open access to part of the campus.
Up until the late 1990s there was minimum fencing at the Manteca High campus. That changed after the mid-1990s when a female student was attacked and raped after school hours in a campus bathroom. Underscoring the vulnerability of the campus due to its location and not having a modern-day site configuration much as Sierra High was an incident a decade ago. That’s when armed robbers fleeing the Bank of America headed toward the campus. One ended up breaking into a nearby home and holing up until a SWAT team and tear gas were able to get them out.
There have also historically been issues with some of the residency motels along Moffat. Crime reports over the years reflect a high number of parolee arrests as well as incidents involving drugs and knifings.
The district is also looking to re-orientate the school to put the office on the southern end of the campus to further enhance security. It also would improve traffic flow issues after school by taking pressure off Yosemite Avenue. A byproduct of such a move would be to accelerate further upgrading along the Moffat Boulevard corridor.
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