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Almost 1/3 of MUSD classrooms are portables
portable damage

Almost one out of every three of the 1,400 classrooms in the Manteca Unified School District are portables.

Some — such as the portable classrooms that constitute the entire Neil Hafley School campus — are closing in on their 40th year of being used. Only a handful of portable classrooms are less than 20 years old.

The significance of those numbers are amplified given portable classrooms have a rated life expectancy of 20 years.

The $260 million bond measure on the March 3 ballot that emphasizes the three “R”s — repair, renovate, and revitalize — aims to make sure at least another 20 years of use can be squeezed out of as many portable as possible.

Passage of Measure R would provide the district to address the most pressing maintenance needs among the portables along with permanent structures, grounds, and “invisible” infrastructure such as water pipes and electrical wiring.

The fact the portables don’t need to be replaced is a testimony to the district’s maintenance crews and the fact Manteca Unified has been able to commit 50 percent more annually to maintenance than typical public school systems in California.

That 50 percent comes to 3 percent of the district’s general fund as opposed to the state minimum maintenance set aside requirement of 2 percent. After 85 percent of the set aside money covers the wages and benefits of the staff needed to do ongoing maintenance that leaves between $1.2 million and $1.8 million a year for materials and replacement equipment as well as to hire firms for work the district is not equipped to do.

One such endeavor that the district lacked the equipment to address was an aging waterline that broke recently. It cost the district $20,000 to contract the work out.

Even though many issues at Shasta School were addressed with part of the proceeds of the $159 million Measure G bonds voters approved in November of 2014, there was $8.4 million in additional work that the district was unable to fund. The Measure G funds were earmarked for a number of schools with the areas that were the most pressing being addressed first.


Overall maintenance

needs list is at $427M

Structural and maintenance needs to meet basic safety and operational standards such as electrical wiring for tech heavy 21st century classrooms as well as making sure the taxpayers’ investment in school facilities is protected is an issue at all 32 Manteca Unified school sites. Overall the current need to upgrade classrooms and support facilities such as gyms, locker rooms, libraries, cafeterias, and restrooms comes in at $427 million.

The $260 million bond, if approved, will address a large chunk of identified deficiencies. The money will not add additional space but instead will make sure the $1 billion plus taxpayer investment represented by the 2.6 million square feet of various education facilities spread across 32 campuses is protected.

“We address dry rot issues on portables every year,” noted Manteca Unified Director of Facilities & Operations Aaron Bowers.


Keeping portables viable

most cost effective move

Bowers credited a dedicated maintenance staff for squeezing more life out of portables. And while a point may come where costs don’t justify the continued rehab of some portables where it is more cost effective in the long-run to replace them, Bowers said essentially as long as the “bones” of the structures stay strong the portables are viable.

Some portables that are designed as bathrooms need to be replaced, however, as the wear and tear makes it cost prohibitive to continue maintaining and rehabbing.

Replacing all 450 portables with new portables would cost $40.5 million based on hard costs such as the purchase and placement of the classrooms along with putting in place needed infrastructure at $90,000 a pop. That is addition to soft costs such as engineering.

By contrast the district’s 1,050 “permanent classrooms” that includes a number Measure R funds would be used to make repairs and such would cost $304 million to replace.

The $427 million in repairs and modernization needs that have been identified include $320 million in the Manteca area, $75 million in Weston Ranch, and $31 million in Lathrop.

The school in the biggest need is Manteca High with $62 million worth of work left to be done after the current $41 million combo Measure G and growth fee funded project is done. Close behind is East Union High with $49 million in identified work that need to be done beyond the $11 million plus being addressed with Measure G funds.

In Lathrop the biggest issues are at Joseph Widmer School built in 2001 that is in need of $10.7 million worth of work.

What adds up quickly — and is prevalent at virtually every campus — is the need to address portable issues that can’t be allowed to linger too long to prevent conditions from deteriorating to a point they become significantly more expensive to do. That is on top of a laundry list of things that need to be replaced over time such as roofs, doors, carpeting as well as heating and air conditioning units.

“A lot of people think Sierra High as a newer school doesn’t need a lot of work but it is (almost) 30 years old and has a lot of portables,” Bowers said.

Even Lathrop High — the district’s newest high school s that opened in 2008 — has costly issues. The heating and air units, as an example, are to the point they need replacing.

Such classrooms units cost $5,000 to buy and thousands more to install and — in many cases such as at Manteca High — to redo connections.


District maintains square

footage equivalent of 1,130

new homes built in Manteca

Districtwide with 1,400 classrooms eventually $10 million plus has to be spent replacing HVAC units. And the cost for larger units such as those for gyms runs into the six figures.

“Keep in mind that doors to classrooms unlike your home are getting opened hundreds of times a day and that toilets are getting flushed hundreds of times a day,” pointed out Victoria Brunn who serves as the Manteca Director of Community Outreach.

Putting the district’s challenge in terms of homes helps give scale to what Manteca Unified is up against dealing with roofs to replacing carpets along with “small items” such as hardware and locks that cost $400 per door and are designed to take heavy use and provide better security.

The typical footprint of a new home currently being built in Manteca is 2,300 square feet. The 2.6 million square feet the district maintains is the equivalent of 1,130 homes.

Measure R requires 55 percent of votes cast to be in the affirmative to be approved. It will impose a tax of $60 per $100,000 of assessed value. That means if your home has an assessed value under Proposition 13 of $300,000, you would pay an additional $180 a year in taxes.

 Voters authorized Measure G in November 2014 for $159 million. Money from those bonds has updated Lincoln, Shasta, Sequoia, Lathrop, and Golden West elementary schools. Projects using the bond money are now in the process of moving forward at Manteca High, East Union High, and Sierra High as well as New Haven, Nile Garden, New Haven, and French Camp elementary schools. Design of the third phase and what schools will be addressed using what bond money remains is now underway.

It is Bowers’ task — after consulting experts who have analyzed the condition of the 2.6 million square feet of school buildings — to determine not just where work is needed but the work that is the most pressing. That exercise will be used to determine what of the $427 million in needs identified in 2019 that are strictly tied into building conditions will be addressed if voters approve the $260 million bond.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email