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Rethink for bond work may save $3.7 million
Manteca Unified Facilities
Manteca Unified Facilities and Operations Director Aaron Bowers during an inspection tour of the Measure G modernization project at Lincoln School last year. - photo by Bulletin file photo

 The Manteca Unified School District was all set to move ahead with the process of drafting plans to construct a new building at Lincoln Elementary School that will help accommodate 210 additional students. 

And then Facilities and Operations Director Aaron Bowers had an idea – what if the district were to scrap the idea of adding up to eight classrooms, and instead created a smaller, cheaper structure that can house all of the programs and services that are currently taking away classroom space at one of the district’s oldest elementary schools?

Rather than paying $5 million for new classrooms, why not pay $1.3 million for a new resource center that still accommodates the growth expected from new home construction south of the Highway 120 Bypass?

While the details and specifics still have to be worked out, the board agreed with the cost-saving measure on Tuesday night – voting to halt the progress of the already approved construction project and pivot towards the design of a standardized resource center and study how the facility would impact the schools’ overall program capacity. 

If it proves to be successful, other district schools that are facing similar growth scenarios could get the same treatment. 

Nile Garden Elementary School – which has long been one of the district’s two rural elementary schools that serves students both inside and outside of the Manteca city limits – will, like Lincoln Elementary School, see its enrollment swell to around 1,000 students once new home construction already approved for South Manteca is completed. Newly drawn district boundaries that were approved by the board earlier this year will help shape that future growth and prevent individual neighborhood schools from becoming overwhelmed with the sudden influx of new residents. 

Lathrop, which is also slated to see a massive period of growth in the coming years, will finally see the realization of the longtime goal to construct a new school site – building the first wing of Ethel Allen Elementary School in the city’s Mossdale neighborhood to accommodate up to 400 new students. 

If the study on the new resource building concept, which was arrived at by examining how the district “loads” classrooms at sites throughout the district, shows that the proposal could be beneficial, growth plans for Nile Garden and Ethel Ellen could be halted in order to allow for the new concept to be implemented. While Ethel Allen currently doesn’t exist, and wouldn’t necessarily benefit from “load” adjustments in the classroom, plans to construct new classrooms at Nile Garden could be changed to streamline space and save money over what was earlier this year viewed as the best way to handle future growth. 

According to Bowers, who detailed the change at Lincoln Elementary to the board on Tuesday night, by consolidating programs like Read 180, Give Every Child a Chance, intervention and speech into a single building, and coupling office space necessary for psychologists, counselors and bilingual aides within the same area – with sensitive areas separated by walled offices – then existing classroom spaces that are utilized for those purposes can be freed up. 

And the proposal leaves a much smaller footprint over what was previously planned. 

The new classroom wing at Lincoln Elementary, which would have added between 6 and 8 classrooms and learning commons, would have required the construction of a 10,000 square foot building. The new proposal, however, which only features one classroom available to be portioned into two 450 square foot spaces, four 150 square foot offices, a 450 square foot conference room and an additional 225 square foot space, would take up just over 2,500 square feet in all – one quarter of what was previously planned. By saving space, the district retains critical property that can be used for expansion in the future if necessary.  

Existing boundary changes for the schools that will be impacted by growth will stand at this time, but Superintendent Clark Burke informed the board and the public that the possibility exists that the district may to revisit reworking those lines in the future depending on how forecasted growth plays out and how that impacts individual school sites. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.