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Manteca Unified among leading districts in California
The solar power panels at Sequoia School. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

There are boxes at school sites that underscore the deep commitment Manteca Unified has to recycling and saving tax dollars.
Extra pages that are printed on copy machines as well as literature received from vendors no longer needed that is printed on one-side and is non-confidential in nature are collected in the boxes.
When a box is full, it is sent to the District Print Shop. There it is made into notepads in three different sizes. The notepads are then available to school sites at no charge
Those pennies saved through making the district as green as possible are yielding big dividends
The most high profile of the district’s green initiatives – solar power — since the 2008-09 fiscal year has helped the district avoid $12,286,580 in energy costs. That is equivalent to what would have been 36 percent of their power bill from PG&E if solar power was not in place.
There is little doubt when it comes to green that Manteca Unified is unmatched among public school systems in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. And from the state’s perspective Manteca Unified is a leader for all of California. It is why Jason Messer of Manteca Unified was tapped as the only local school superintendent to serve on the state’s Environmental Literacy Steering Committee.
Some of the most cutting edge green initiatives in the Golden State can be seen from Messer’s third floor corner office overlooking the district office complex.
uA biochar test plot where students are growing food for school cafeterias. The project involves taking charcoal made from wood based waste and mixing it with soil. Biochar has been found to substantially reduce water use to grow crops while improving plant growth by nutrients it releases into the soil. The undertaking monitored by university research teams is the first of its kind in the San Joaquin Valley where over a third of the nation’s fruits and vegetables are grown. Success at the Manteca Unified school farm could give the nation’s No. 1 agricultural region a potent weapon to reduce water consumption while increasing crop production.
uThe Gen 7 Zero Net Energy Academy and Community Center that generates more electricity than it needs while incorporating design features that maximizes natural light and minimizes energy need to heat and cool. It also made heavy use of recycled materials in its construction. It earned the gold standard for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) certification.
uCharging stations beneath the solar panels that provide for a parking canopy that service the district fleet of four Nissan all electric Leaf vehicles.
uIn the purchasing department warehouse is a furniture recycling program. This is where campuses send their non-surplus furniture and equipment with an original purchase price less than $500 when it is damaged, broken or no longer of use for the site. All usable furniture is placed in an on-line catalogue and is available to all sites free of charge. A ground breaking program in partnership with Vicro Take-back recycles out-of-service and broken furniture components such as chair buckets and table tops. Some of that is transformed into the fortified recycled wood used to make seats, backrests and work surfaces for the highly sustainable Telos and Zuma furniture collections. All steel components are recycled through a local steel recycler.
uThe purchasing department also recycles used Hewlett-Packard toners through that company’s Edge program. The points the district accumulates goes toward the purchase of new printers. During the 2014-15 school year, 25 free printers were distributed to school sites through the program.

School sites heavily
into recycling efforts
And if you work in the district office, you get to feel the green savings every work day. That’s because central air and heat shuts off a half hour ahead of the end of the work day. The move, made during the depth of the Great Recession, is still in place and saves thousands of dollars a year in power. A similar program at the school sites was discontinued when finances improved. The systems now stay on until the end of the school day to maintain an optimum comfortable environment or learning.
The school sites are equally impressive.
City of Manteca Solid Waste coordinator Rexie LeStrange noted that in the past 15 years the schools have slashed their garbage volume by 90 percent when it comes to classroom trash. Recycling bins are now routinely stuffed to the gills while straight garbage has been drastically reduced.
Manteca Unified also has some of the first California schools recycling food waste in conjunction with the City of Manteca. Currently Walter Woodward, Joshua Cowell, and Brock Elliott elementary schools recycle a ton of food waste weekly from their cafeterias.
The food waste is being hauled to Harvest Power in Lathrop for now where it is converted into compost.
By April all schools in the district will be recycling food waste.
Sometime in late 2017 or early 2018 that food waste will be used by the City of Manteca to produce compressed gas at the municipal wastewater treatment plant to power the city’s solid waste collection trucks.