There was a time when Manteca Unified facility planners could assume a new home being built would represent the generation of 0.8 school-aged children.
That’s no longer the case.
The key demographic trends school leaders are seeing today signal the coming of growth at all grade levels.
Perhaps the most significant was an increase of kindergarten enrollment in both older and newer neighborhoods. Kindergarten leading the enrollment growth hasn’t happened for years. It represents — as Deputy Superintendent Roger Goatcher noted last month — the beginning of a student wave that will carry on through the 12th grade.
At the same time Bay Area buyers that purchase new homes in Manteca tend to have older school-aged children as has been the case since the mid-1990s when the City of Manteca new subdivision market morphed into larger homes.
Now there are two more trends to toss into the mix.
A growing number of new home buyers are older and often without children at home.
District Superintendent Jason Messer who recently moved into a new home in Oakwood Shores noted a number of his new neighbors have moved into the area from out-of-state to be closer to their children who have taken jobs in the Bay Area.
While that eases pressure on classroom space, it is essentially being wiped out and then some by a trend that has been picking up speed since the dawn of the century — more and more existing homes have two distinct families living under one roof.
“I’m not sure we can rely on the 0.8 yield factor for new homes any longer,” Messer said.
Messer and district leaders have been working with developers to secure funding for future schools south of the 120 Bypass.
“They (the builders) definitely want to work toward solutions,” Messer said. “They want their (future homeowners) to be able to have their children walk to school.”
Manteca Unified has been working with the City of Manteca to get new developments included in Mello-Roos districts to help fund new campuses.
The City of Manteca has 8,312 homes in various stages of approval south of the 120 Bypass that are within district boundaries. That could mean at least 6,851 more students added to the current enrollment of 23,906.
That translates into enough high school students to fill the current capacity of Sierra High and then some. It would also require the equivalent of six new elementary schools. Based on Manteca’s existing schools, it can cost $25 million to $30 million to build an elementary school and in excess of $130 million to build a high school.
At the same time, Manteca Unified is faced with student growth around established schools due to the growing trend of many homes having two families with both often having school-aged children. Some of the reasons for that are financial, others are cultural.
The Measure G bond work that is being done at various campuses includes making sure the campus layout will accommodate classrooms for up to 300 more students. At the same time infrastructure such as pipes are put in so expansion work could be done with minimal effort and cost.
Messer said that is being done to address both new housing growth — in case the district has to resort to busing from new developments — as well as the strong potential that established neighborhoods will see an upswing in enrollment in the coming years.