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Manteca High makeover shifts into high gear, crews start demolishing small gym
MHS small gym
A pile of bricks from the south wall of the small gym sits in the Manteca High student parking lot.

Just hours after the Class of 2020 drove through the student parking lot wearing caps and gowns to collect their diplomas, Manteca High’s makeover to set the stage for its second century started with a thundering crash.

Crews on Thursday started demolishing the small gym that — along with the previous removal of the small and aging swimming pool — will make way for a new large gym and a modern swimming pool. Work on both projects is expected to start later this year.

By mid-afternoon half of the roof and most of the southern wall was history. The gym will likely be leveled and hauled completely away by early next week.

Several people swung by to take smartphone photos of a bit of Buffalo history. The last demolition of a major structure on the campus — the beloved tower — was on Oct 3, 1969. That structure built in 1922 that became the campus icon Manteca was identified by for nearly half a century didn’t come down without a fight.

The community formed a “Save the Tower” committee trying to stop the demolition triggered by more rigged earthquake safety standards for public schools. The effort failed. The tower, however, proved to be a daunting challenge to tumble. A cable on the heavy equipment that was being used to try and topple the structure facing East Yosemite Avenue snapped twice. Crews tried a massive Caterpillar tractor with no luck. Finally the crew had to bring in a wrecking ball to finish the task.

The current demolition will clear the way for the most visible portion of a $41 million endeavor between Measure G bond funds and growth fees to modernize the campus and prepare it to handle additional students.

When the work is completed, it will position Manteca High as the first district high school campus with facilities to accommodate 2,250 students or roughly a 400 to 500 student increase in capacity.

The Manteca Unified School District board strategy calls for all high school campuses to be taken up to 2,250 students eventually. In the case of the City of Manteca, it would be the same as adding a fourth high school campus within the city limits at a fraction of the $160 million to $200 million cost to build a new high school campus from scratch. Between existing capacity and what additional classroom space is being added, the larger versions of East Union, Sierra and Manteca High campuses could ultimately serve the high school population that Manteca is projected to have when the city’s population reaches 120,000 residents. Manteca currently has a population of 84,500.

The segment of Garfield Avenue that the city has turned over to the district will be turned into a pedestrian promenade to connect the campus that has been sliced in two by the street for as century. That will allow the district to better secure the campus and prevent people from walking or driving through the campus as well.

The new gym will be the largest in the district seating 2,161. That is triple the 700 seating capacity of the big gym or Winter Gym. When the new gym is done the seating capacity of the new big gym will exceed others on the district by 400 to 500 seats. The small gym will be far the largest given most of the other small gyms do not have permanent seating.

The gym’s footprint will protrude on a portion of Garfield Avenue as well as the area where the swimming pool was once located.

The area where the small gym is now being demolished and a portion of the former softball field will accommodate the new swimming pool. A student drop off point will be created in front of the new gym and new swimming pool.

Depending upon on the final cost, between 8 and 12 new classrooms will be built on what is now the southeast corner of Garfield and Mikesell avenues.

$62 million in work

at MHS still needed

Manteca High — whose buildings where 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 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 contact Dennis Wyatt,