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HOMELESS PROBLEM
Wide open street creates student safety concerns
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Manteca High Principal Frank Gonzales talks about student security issues created by have a city street that cuts through the campus. - photo by HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo

Manteca High has a problem that few other schools — if any — in the 209 region have: Keeping the homeless off campus.
Security staff must routinely run homeless individuals off school property when classes are in session and at other times as well. It isn’t unusual for campus security patrols to roost homeless sleeping under bushes along Garfield Avenue or chase them out of the athletics fields. They have been found taking shelter in and around the press box at the football stadium.
“They (the homeless) will cut holes in our school fences at Manteca High to take short cuts,” noted District Superintendent Jason Messer.
The homeless problems stem from two major issues:
uGarfield Avenue — although it is blocked to school traffic during school hours and during school events — is still a public street allowing people to walk through the campus. The street splits Manteca High into two thirds and a third with classrooms on both sides of the street.
uA perennial homeless retreat created in part by how fencing for Lincoln Park, Lincoln School, and Manteca High converge is a destination accessed by homeless individuals throughout the day and night. It at times is a de facto encampment right up against the Manteca High campus.
A windshield survey during a three-week period while driving on Moffat Boulevard and Mikesell Street saw eight homeless individuals walking through the middle of campus during the school day via Garfield Avenue.  Rarely do you see other non-student of school employee pedestrians besides the homeless walking down the portion of Garfield that is blocked to vehicle traffic.
There are homes along Garfield across from the high school north of Mikesell and then on both sides of Mikesell. Facing Moffat on either side of the southern end of Garfield is Precision Automotive, a trailer park, and a weekly motel.
Messer noted even though securing the school site from public vehicular traffic during school hours protects against vehicles during those hours, it does not allow the school site to completely secure their premises from foot traffic during school, or any access after school.
“In the ideal situation it is to the advantage of a school to be able to secure and lock down their premises in the case of an emergency,” Messer noted.
Messer said the Manteca High staff maintains vigilance during school hours to ensure routine safety of the school is enforced.
He added, however, after hours access to the campus is easily achieved and as a result homeless must routinely be chassed form the premises.
“With the ability to control the Garfield Avenue real estate, (comes) the ability to construct controlled fences and ingress or agrees points for the campus,” the superintendent said.
Messer was referring to the possibility that the school district could gain ownership of the street. In doing so it would also allow a more holistic approach to the upcoming $30 million remodeling of the nearly century-old campus. Since student safety was one of the top justifications for the voter approved bonds, the school district having ownership of that section of Garfield Avenue would allow a layout of the campus that maximizes security and safety in part by relocating the office.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com