Manteca Unified — as part of an ongoing strategy to squeeze more space out of existing campuses and reduce the need for adding expensive new schools — is moving forward with building resource centers.
The district last week received bid proposals to build school resource centers at Mossdale and Lathrop elementary schools. A resource center is already part of construction plans underway at Nile Garden School. Others may be built at Widmer, Lincoln, Sequoia, Veritas, Woodward, and Brock Elliott schools.
The effort is designed to accommodate 1,584 more elementary students while keeping neighborhood schools intact and saving between $8 million and $22 million in the process. The strategy means 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 without having to build a new campus that now can cost as much as $30 million.
The solution involves building resource centers for pullout programs such as speech, targeted reading efforts, and such at eight elementary campuses.
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.
Traditional 960-square-foot classrooms accommodate between 30 and 36 students in regular grade level programs. Pullout programs are typically a third that size or smaller. Such programs were added over the years by state mandate for campuses that almost all had been built with traditional classrooms.
The district will also make sure that the area being built for the pullout programs are designed for that purpose to make them more effective.
Building a resource center at each of the existing elementary campuses in Lathrop will create rooms 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 in south Manteca elementary campus. 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 in 2016 is in line with a goal to try and cap elementary enrollment at 1,000 students. The board 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.
That 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.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org