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A way to address needs, add enrichment, serve students & community plus maximize tax dollars
MUSD office view
The view from the third story of the Manteca Unified District Office complex. An envisioned exposition center could go along Airport Way near the intersection with Louise Avenue in the upper right side of the photo.

Imagine being able to bring every student at a specific Manteca Unified grade level together at one place for learning enrichment.

Let’s say it is an all-day event for eighth graders on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The district is able to secure two high-profile speakers. One could be French Camp native, engineer and astronaut Jose M. Hernandez.

The other could be Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Deputy Director for Science and Technology Patricia Falcone.

After gathering in an auditorium with seating for 2,000 augmented by audio visual aids, the students break up into smaller groups to explore various aspects of STEM.

One area has lab facilities. Another is a large area that can be broken into smaller spaces via moveable walls. There are more traditional rooms as well.

Outside there are “outdoor classrooms” equipped under roof covers with WIFI and audio visual capabilities

As such there could be dozens of learning spaces accommodating experts on various STEM disciplines gathered all in one place giving all district eighth graders access to the same enrichment programs.

 It is one such scenario that could occur as Manteca Unified further explores the possibility of spending $15 million or so on what  original started out as the possibility of pursuing a regional performing arts facility at the district office campus at Louise Avenue and Airport Way.

Accommodating and expanding performing arts for the district’s 25,000 students as well as the communities the district serves is still  very much a part of the plan.

But if the project goes forward, District Superintendent Clark Burke wants to make if an investment is made in a centralized facility that it can serve a multitude of purposes to further expand educational programming as well as cover gaps in facilities needed for the arts as well as the large-scale gatherings both for school learning opportunities and the community as a whole.

Call if an exposition center, if you will.

It’s a concept that will be explored more intensely the near future by a core planning group.

That group will identity needs more precisely and explore how a centralize facility can address those needs.

It will build on a conceptual design that is part of a $250,000 investment by the Manteca Unified board to build upon educational programming with facility that can open more doors, inspire, education, and entertain.

It could end up being a cross between a performing arts center, a conference center, and a magnet education center. Or, more aptly apt, an exposition center,

As such it would build upon principles the school board has embraced to guide how the district invests in facilities going forward:

*They must be program driven.

*Taxpayers need to get maximum return on money spent.

*Flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing needs counts.

*The ability to serve multiple uses is a must.


Idea rooted in need &

desire to avoid duplicate

facilities with minimal use


The idea of an exposition center/centralized performing arts center that might best be described as a learning enhancement center was launched in December.

At the time, it was noted it had  the potential in one fell swoop to address program deficiencies at all five high schools identified by school administrators, teachers, classified staff and students. It also could significantly bolster district elementary performing arts programs, and open the door for community-based programs in Manteca, Lathrop and Southwest Manteca which is Weston Ranch.

Manteca Unified staff started pondering the possibility of a district campus facility after the big ticket item kept surfacing in campus needs assessments as well as addressing parity between campuses and serving emerging students.

Building a performing arts theatre and classrooms for related programs at East Union High and Sierra High carries a price tag of at least $12 million at each location. And to modernize the performing arts theatre at Manteca High and add related classrooms that would create a facility that likely would be smaller than the ones at EU and Sierra would cost at least $3.3 million.

The needs assessment for Weston Ranch and Lathrop High haven’t been addressed to the same degree as they are the district’s newest two high schools.

Preliminary cost for one central performing arts center at the district office complex was pegged at $14.6 million in December. To address programming needs for emerging students the tab is $42 million just at three high school campuses. If a similar facility was built at each of the district’s five comprehensive campuses the price tag would be in excess of $70 million.

Such an approach could end up having five duplicated facilities that are far from maximized in terms of their use and potential at a price tag as much as five times higher.

The vision is to augment and not replace what is on existing campuses such as “black box” or one-room theaters as well as the smaller performing arts center at Manteca High.

It would provide a venue for high school concerts, plays, and similar presentations.

Joint elementary programs also could be conducted. The district location is also expected to be large enough that it could accommodate eighth grade promotion ceremonies and possibly high school graduations.

The cities of  Manteca and Lathrop as well as southwest Stockton make heavy use of district facilities for community-based recreation. They would be able to do the same for the envisioned district complex.

It is not unusual in many districts for non-profits to use school venues for concerts such as what was offered by the now disbanded Manteca Kindred Arts organization and even community theatre groups.

What is unusual is for a district with multiple high school campuses to use a central site away from campuses to avoid duplicating not just construction costs but those connected with ongoing maintenance and operations.

The district campus at Louise Avenue – as the crow flies — is within a mile of East Union High, 1½  miles of Sierra High, 2½ miles of Manteca High, and 5 miles of Lathrop High.

The initial allocation of $250,000 was authorized by the board to develop a program summary and conceptual design solution for the project. Initial planning costs center on conceptual planning services including but not limited to; architectural design, educational & technical specifications, scoping documents, cost estimating, geotechnical investigations, and topographical surveys.

State funds set aside for capital outlay are covering the cost of the study.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email