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Manteca mapping out concerns with to & from school travel
Shasta School students stay in the crosswalk Thursday in front of their school on their way home. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin

Manteca Unified is working on a three-pronged strategy to enhance the safety of the district’s 23,500 students traveling to and from school.

Educating students about existing safe routes to school and being smart when walking.

Identifying problems and concerns with traffic on streets around schools.

Making sure modernization projects correct traffic flow and safety issues at various campuses.

The effort is an outgrowth of two traffic incidents earlier this school year: The death of a Shasta School first grader struck in an intersection as she walked to school and a Manteca High cross country runner hit crossing Moffat Boulevard while on a team practice run.

“We wanted to make sure we addressed the safety of all students,” Manteca Unified Deputy Superintendent Clark Burke said of the decision to take a districtwide approach.

After meeting with various stakeholders including the city, the district generated Google maps of neighborhoods around every school and has distributed them to each campus. Each school is tasked to work with their staff and parents to identify areas that are of a concern.

They could range from visual issues at intersections that numerous students cross, traffic conditions, or other issues.

Once concerns are identified on the aerial maps they will be used to discuss the next step.

Burke noted in many instances the city and not the school district would have final say on any suggested improvements.

At previous public meeting parents have called for higher visibility crosswalks, more police enforcement, and stop signs.

District Superintendent Jason Messer noted a major component will include educating students about safety as well as about existing safe home-to-school routes.

Since student safety is a primary goal, the bond modernization projects will all look at ways for improving safety as it pertains to traffic flow in school drop-off zones and parking lots.

Four prime examples are in the first wave of $56.4 million in Measure G projects:  Lincoln, Lathrop, Sequoia, and Shasta elementary schools.

In the case of Lincoln and Sequoia, the main entrance to each campus is being changed to a street where vehicle flow can be significantly improved for parents dropping off — and picking up — their students.

 The 1950s era Lincoln School — when work is completed — will have a new front entrance while the current entrance along Yosemite Avenue will be restored to its original look.

The new entrance along Powers Avenue is designed to improve security and significantly increase the safety of children going to and from school as well as reduce traffic congestion on Yosemite Avenue.

A new multipurpose room will be built where the playground along Powers Avenue is now located along with an administrative office. The existing circular driveway will be removed and replaced with a larger one that will allow for a less congested drop off of students as well as establish one entrance to the campus for security purposes.

The use of Powers Avenue will significantly improve traffic flow given that across the street there is a sound wall for the Curran Grove neighborhood and school playing fields and a city park are to the south and a preschool and service station to the north. The current Yosemite Avenue entrance besides being on the city’s second heaviest traveled east-west street is surrounded by commercial ventures.

 Sequoia School will no longer face Martha Street as it has for more than a half a century after the campus’ $8.4 million modernization project is completed. Instead, a new office will be built next to the multi-purpose room completed a few years back along Wawona Street.

The entire campus will be re-orientated and reconfigured to improve security as well so the campus can be effectively locked down in emergencies.

Kindergarten drop-off, however, will remain on Martha Street.

Neighbors and parents alike have complained for years about the hodge podge situation at Lathrop School regarding before and after school traffic.

The bond project will clean up the traffic issues, add sidewalks, provide a bus drop off and create one main entrance to the campus.

Shasta School’s parking lot will be expanded and driveway visibility issues addressed.