River Islands could end up having all the schools within the 11,000-home planned community as part of a charter program.
A multi-faceted agreement hammered out by River Islands, Banta School District, Tracy Unified and the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) includes a Nov. 3 ballot measure to create a Banta unified district that would allow it to have a high school.
Banta School District is currently a kindergarten through 8th grade public school system.
River Islands Tech Academy — now charted under the SJCOE — and the Banta STEAM Academy at River Islands will both be part of one charter school organization operating under the auspices of Banta School District. If Banta School District voters that include the rural community east of Tracy as well as more than 1,500 families already living on River Islands approve unification on Nov. 3 that means all schools being built in River Islands including a high school breaking ground in 2021 will be part of the River Islands Charter Schools organization operating under the auspices of the Banta board.
Brenda Scholl — the current principal of River Islands Tech Academy — would be executive director of the charter schools.
The governing board would consist of two members appointed by the Banta board, two members appointed by River Islands at Lathrop, and one at-large member selected by the four appointees. Once the last home is built at River Islands, the successor homeowner controlled agency will appoint the two River Islands members.
The unification and the new high school targeted to open in 2022 will serve to strengthen both the Banta and River Islands communities as well as expand education offerings.
Currently River Islands students who are in high school attend school at West High on Tracy’s west side. Banta Elementary students, once River Islands High School opens, will still have the option to attend Tracy High that families in Banta have attended for generations or attend River Islands High School.
The combined eighth grade graduating classes in May between Banta Elementary, Banta STEAM, and River Islands Tech Academy numbered 120 students.
If River Islands High School ultimately opens with freshmen and sophomore classes plus the planned community continues its current growth pace, the new high school could end up opening with 240 to 300 students.
River Island Tech Academy originally opened as a charter school through Banta. Then after its initial year Banta opted to take over the campus that River Islands at Lathrop built. River Islands scrambled to create a new campus literally down the street from the school that was being rechristened Banta STEAM using portable buildings that allowed the tech academy to open in time for the start of the second school year.
Keeping River Islands schools self-contained has always been a goal of the Cambay Group development team intent on providing future residents a seamless and cohesive community experience. Just as home construction started River Islands briefly explored the possibility of annexing to the Manteca Unified School District in a bid to keep community households in one school district that would have been part of the same district that Lathrop residents on the east side of the San Joaquin River are served by.
River Islands — because Banta is not a unified K-12 district — is split between Tracy Unified District for high school and Banta School District for elementary schools.
The charter approach was settled on in a bid to create a cohesive school system for River Islands as well as to make educational opportunities for families moving into the community as cutting edge as possible.
If voters approve, Banta will become San Joaquin County’s ninth unified district for K-12 students. The other are Manteca, Ripon, Tracy, Escalon, Linden, Stockton, Lincoln, and Lodi.
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