Manteca Unified is now pursuing a course that will accommodate 1,584 more elementary students while keeping neighborhood schools intact and saving between $8 million and $22 million in the process.
It also means that projected elementary student growth in the district’s two highest growth areas — Lathrop and Manteca south of the 120 Bypass — can be accommodated for at least the next 10 years.
The solution involves building resource centers for pullout programs such as speech, targeted reading efforts, and such at eight elementary campuses.
“It doesn’t make sense using a 960-square-foot classroom for programs that need a lot less space,” noted Aaron Bowers who serves as the Manteca Unified Director of Facilities.
By building resource centers that can be designed for that specific purpose and in such a manner the space that is being built can serve multiple programs, the district will free up traditional classrooms. The district can also make sure that the area being built for the pullout programs are designed for that purpose.
The resource centers at the eight campuses will cost $13.3 million. Had the district pursued its initial alternative of adding six sets of eight classrooms at existing schools to house student growth over the next 10 years it would have cost more than $20 million. And had the traditional route been taken to accommodate growth — building a new elementary campus — the price tag would have cost $35 million.
The initial five campuses where resource centers will be built — Lathrop, Mossdale, Widmer, Lincoln, and Sequoia schools — are now in design with construction planned for 2019. The second phase involving Veritas, Woodward, and Brock Elliott schools will also be designed this year with construction taking place over the next three to five years as growth is encountered.
Building a resource center at each of the existing elements campuses in Lathrop will create space for 598 additional students. The district’s current projections have identified the need to house 530 more elementary students in the Lathrop area over the next decade.
The resource center projects in Manteca would create space for 986 more students at south Manteca elementary campuses. Growth projections have indicated a need for 870 more elementary seats to serve the growing area south of the 120 Bypass.
The strategy adopted by the board earlier this month is in line with a goal to try and cap elementary enrollment at 1,000 students. The board has determined that number of students is optimum for the educational process while at the same time having enough economies of scale to keep day-to-day costs manageable.
The biggest growth pressure area in terms of classroom space needs is in Lathrop.
Originally the district was looking at building the initial four grades of the Ethel Allen campus in the northern Mossdale Crossing community.
Now that the district has fine-tuned its growth strategy to create additional space for new students in the most cost effective manner possible while enhancing the education programs, it increases the likelihood when Ethen Allen School is finally built it will be as a full-fledged campus and not in phases.
The resource center solution may be a bit unorthodox given how school districts typically approach growth issues. It was made possible by the district holding true to its promise to seek input from the community and staff without being wedded or any preconceived notions before embarking on a construction program.
Bowers said listening to input made it clear that there was not only space that was being underutilized with smaller groups of students in pullout programs conducted in traditional full-size classrooms but that there was also a need to tailor space more appropriately to the needs of the pullout programs.
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