A walk through the Manteca High campus that turns 100 years old this year shows plenty of wear and tear — uneven and buckling walkways, dry rot, and other structural issues that come with age.
But it’s what you don’t see that can be costly. There are failing underground pipes, soil compaction issues, leaking roofs, heating/air units needing replacement, grading problems from numerous campus alterations over the past 100 years, and aging electrical wiring as well as asbestos that must be abated.
All of that is what you might expect for a school campus that has graduated 99 classes.
What isn’t expected is when Manteca Unified Director of Facilities & Operations Aaron Bowers opens the door to a room on the end of a classroom wing directly west of Winter Gym.
Inside is a series of electrical transformers installed in 1947.
Bowers said when an electrical engineer in his 50s that was hired to assess power systems at all of the district’s 32 school sites was astonished to see what was behind the door.
“He said that he’s only seen them in textbooks when he was in college,” Bowers said of the electrical transformer. “The PG&E workers that saw them took one look and said they have to be replaced.”
The transformers that have been humming along for 73 years are ironically tied to 21st century technology as power generated by solar panels are fed into them.
Replacing them won’t be cheap. A single commercial transformer can range in price from $35,000 to $75,000 exclusive of the cost to install.
Assessments of the condition of the 32 campuses in the Manteca Unified School District from experts in the fields of electrical engineering and roofing to observations that show things such as restroom issues, disintegrating flooring, and dry rot around windows reflect a $427 million districtwide need to address structural, facility, and grounds issues that exist now.
To address as much of that as they can, the school board has decided to ask voters March 3 to approve a $260 million bond not to build new school facilities but to simply make sure what is in place that serves 25,000 students can be brought up to acceptable standards. In short, it is to spend pennies on the dollar of what new schools would cost to extend the life of facilities taxpayers already have a sizeable investment in.
The bond requires 55 percent of votes cast to be in the affirmative to be approved. It will impose a tax of $60 per $100,000 of assessed value. That means if your home has an assessed value under Proposition 13 of $300,000, you would pay an additional $180 a year in taxes.
Manteca High — whose buildings were built at various times over the years with some dating back to the 1940s — has the oldest average age of facilities in the district.
Based on the need to address everything involving classrooms, support facilities, and grounds there is $62 million of work that is needed. Part of the bond — if Measure R is passed — will go toward some or all of that need once everything in the district is weighed. In addition there has been $40 million worth of work identified that is attached to educational programming needed to bring classrooms and other learning spaces up to 21st century scholastics needs that will not be addressed by the Measure R bond.
All of that is on top of $41 million worth of work now underway at Manteca High using Measure G, development fees, and redevelopment receipts. Measure G is going toward safety and health concerns as voters were promised. The other funding sources are allowing the district to set the stage for the campus to expand to 2,250 students to accommodate growth. That is funding the new large gym and new swimming pool.
To illustrate what the district is up against and how they are working to stretch funds and only do what work is necessary, a new career technical education grant that is being pursued will allow for the construction of a modern woodshop to replace the one currently in that was built in the 1940s.
The woodshop will be repurposed as a weight training room for physical education and athletics. A quick visual survey shows aging windows — including some with cracks — and that are far from being energy efficient should be replaced. The same goes for other parts of the structure clearly showing wear and tear. The woodshop, however, will only be prepped inside for the minimum it will take to make it a functional weight room as the money can’t be spared when there are more pressing needs that aren’t being funded.
The removal of the old pool that was undersized for modern high school sports was needed to allow for the construction of a new gym. The replacement pool will go in an area where the small gym now stands after it is demolished.
Bowers noted that when the pool was being removed it was clear that the walls were nearing the end of their life. The district also had to truck in replacement soil — in addition to fill soil — to meet current compaction standards given a 2,250-seat gym is being built on the site.
Some may ask why the school district hasn’t addressed the facility issues as the years have unfolded.
They actually have — at least as far as they could with available money. It is why the district has a number of portable classrooms that have a rated life expectancy of 20 years that are now closing on — and in some cases — exceeding 40 years. Those portables that still have “good bones” are among work targeted in Measure R to extend their life even farther.
The alternative — that is much less affordable – is to replace portables with permanent classrooms that can be built for as “low” as $125,000 apiece if eight or more are built in one spot at the same time.
The district sets aside 5 percent of its annual general fund for maintenance as opposed to the 3 percent the State of California recommends. About 85 percent of the $1.7 million goes to cover the cost of staff to do maintenance work. The remaining $500,000 plus is what is left to pay for materials or if they need to hire specialized help with items such as plumbing.
That money is spread across 32 school sites that get heavy use from nearly 27,000 students and staff every day.
Bowers noted community members surveyed by the district when it was weighing whether to prepare a bond measure stressed they wanted emphasis on “protecting what we have” so the district’s $1 billion plus investment in facilities won’t be compromised and require significantly more expensive replacement structures.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email@example.com