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Campus will house TK, kindergarten for multiple schools
k class
This is a Bulletin file photo of a pre-COVID kindergarten class.

Locations for proposed early education  centers — one south of the 120 Bypass and one in Lathrop — will be discussed when the Manteca Unified school board meets today.

The board is meeting at 1 p.m. at the district office,  2271 West Louise Avenue.

The concept of education centers is designed to help Manteca Unified address what could be a more daunting challenge than accommodating growth or upgrading aging campuses.

The district — just like every other public school system in California that has elementary schools — is under a pending state mandate to provide universal transitional kindergarten classes.

At the same time, a push is underway to require kindergarten students to go to school for a full day instead of a half day. Legislation authorizing that was vetoed in 2022 by Gov. Gavin Newsom based on the cost factor it would place on the state to bump up local funding.

When full day kindergarten is eventually implemented, it will require districts to basically double their number of kindergarten classrooms even if they experience no growth.

The district is focusing on South Manteca  as well as Lathrop first as they are the two fastest growing areas within the district.

The board could select a site for the South Manteca early education center when they meet today. The Lathrop location options are expected to require additional evaluation.

The South Manteca center will serve as a model for future early education facilities elsewhere in the district.

Such centers would be “regional” meaning they would involve students from multiple elementary school attendance areas.

Relocating kindergarten to such regional centers would also free up space at existing elementary schools for additional classrooms for first through eighth graders.

Transitional kindergarten classroom configurations have design and space needs similar to kindergarten classrooms.

The state requirement for kindergarten classrooms is 1,350 square feet as opposed to 960 square feet for a standard classroom.

Kindergarten classrooms also must have fenced in playground areas with age-specific playground equipment as well as their own restrooms.

The state has indicated they will help pay for new TK classrooms but they will likely not allow the use of portables.

The state mandate that any school offering kindergarten must also provide transitional kindergarten for 4 year-olds goes into effect starting with the 2024-2025 academic year.

In the case of Manteca Unified, that could mean housing up to 2,000 new students once the 14th year of education is in place. The district currently has 24,667 students.

The need for more TK classrooms and the possible doubling of kindergarten space needs when full days become the norm for kindergarten prompted Manteca Unified to explore numerous options for the school board to consider.

Simply adding on to every existing campus would seem to be the obvious choice. That, however, would likely also be the most expensive course and may not be as effective of an option.

That is due to two things.

One, there is a scale of savings in larger projects as opposed to simply adding a couple of classrooms per site.

Second, a school campus dedicated to TK and kindergarten would be dedicated 100 percent to offering the best educational opportunities for those two grade levels.

The universal TK mandate from Sacramento is based on decades of research that shows establishing an early and strong foundation for learning is vital.

Studies have shown children provided “effective learning opportunities” before kindergarten have an advantage in school and in life over children who do not. That is especially true of children with adverse childhood experiences.

The universal TK program offers full-day learning opportunities in a play-based environment.

Children practice early literacy skills. The program is not designed to simply teach kindergarten curriculum a year earlier.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email