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Manteca Unified seeking to maximize its student housing based on growth patterns, mandates & financial resources
brock elliott
Students at a Brock Elliott School assembly.

There were 864 single home permits issued in 2023 in Manteca.

As such, it is prompting those residing in the current high growth area of Manteca south of the 120 Bypass to ask the question: Why isn’t Manteca Unified building a new elementary campus on land they acquired near McKinley and Woodward avenues in a land trade instead of adjusting attendance boundaries?

There are 60 million answers in the form of dollars which is the cost today to build a new elementary campus for 1,000 students.

The answer, however, isn’t that straightforward.

*Development fees passed on to new home buyers are capped under state law. They do  not come even close to paying for construction to house students they generate.

*The addition of Mello-Roos taxes bridges some, but not all, of the funding gap.

*The $260 million local bond issue voters approved in November 2020, is restricted to modernization and replacement of aging facilities. The district has an identified need of almost $600 million at its existing 30 plus campuses.

*There is no state bond proposal on the horizon to provide funding for new school construction. It’s the reality of growth stagnating in the voter-rich coastal areas while cities in interior California — primarily the Northern San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento region, and Inland Empire of Riverside and San Bernadino counties — are still growing.

Demographers back in 2000 projected Manteca Unified School District would grow by 900 students over the course of the following four years.

If they all were K-8 students, that would be the equivalent of the average enrollment of a typical MUSD elementary campus.


Manteca Unified now

has enrollment of 24,667

Two years later at the halfway point of that projection, the district is already two thirds of the way there adding 210 students in the 2021-2022 school year and 513 in the 2022-2023 school year.

There are now 24,667 students in the district.

Manteca Unified student housing needs today are being hit with a double whammy.

When it comes to housing students, districts up and down California now have to provide space for state-mandated traditional kindergarten (TK). The requirement is expected to increase the number of students by an additional 900 plus over the next four years by the time full implementation of TK occurs in 2025-2026.

That means without a net gain of families in the district from growth, enrollment will likely reach 25,600 by late 2026.

Add in the current growth rate thanks to Manteca and Lathrop being among the top five fastest growing cities in California and the number of new students generated during the past two school years, MUSD could be at 26,700 students by the end of 2026 without the TK mandate.

If that happens Manteca Unified enrollment will have increased by roughly 13 percent since the 2020-2021 school year when enrollment was at 23,560.

That translates into housing roughly 2,000 more students.

And while the first reaction  of many — especially in high growth neighborhoods where parents may be seeing their students bused to other campuses due to grade level overcrowding — to question why isn’t the district building more elementary schools.

That, as Victoria Brunn who serves as the Manteca unified chief business and information officer pointed out in November, not only is it the wrong answer but it could be a costly one. That’s because it could create a situation within 20 years or so of having to close schools as has happened in other large districts where growth patterns shifted and populations of existing neighborhoods aged differently.



District exploring all

options for school space

That is why the district is exploring all options including adding classrooms to existing campuses and building program resource centers to free up classrooms that have programs limited to 12 or students at a time or so for use to repurpose for 30 students.

It doesn’t preclude additional elementary schools from being built. It’s just that the district wants to maximize what they have in place by augmenting campuses where possible to make sure they can afford to house new students.

At the same time the TK space, just like kindergarten classes, needs to be larger than an average classroom as well as have self-contained bathrooms.

Committing to an elementary school that can cost $60 million and take years to go from planning to opening.

It is why the district for a number of years has secured ongoing demography services with staff assigned to work with them. The partnership is to such a degree that they visit new home developments as a team to obtain general information on families buying homes and the ages of children in the households.

Such information allows they district not only to plan for housing but programming, staffing, and budgeting.

Enrollment growth isn’t linear nor is it consistent across all grade levels.

There has also been a surge beyond what was expected in high school enrollment.

The sales of existing homes as well as the sale of new homes aren’t all the same in terms of who are buying them in terms of young, established, or older families.

Some neighborhoods based on price point are drawing families with 7th and 8th  grade as well as high school-aged children.

Those a bit lower priced in the $400,000 to $600,000 range have a larger percentage of families with young children.

At the same time apartment yields – based on rents — are different as well.
Most districts don’t have an ongoing relationship with demography firms. The reason is simple. They are not in a high growth mode. That means thorough examining the demographics every four years does the job.

Manteca Unified also understood a long time ago that while the overall enrollment numbers may be close to being what is projected with a four-year outlook done every four years, there is a vast difference on how the numbers accumulate at each grade level.


Nile Garden is highest impacted

school; that’s why boundaries

were adjusted for next school year

The Manteca Unified board’s policy is to operate schools based on program capacity in a bid to optimize student education. That doesn’t eliminate the possibility that should they not be able to accommodate students in some manner that reflects program capacity, that a school at some point  would be forced to operate based on design capacity.

Actual school design capacity is higher.  Program capacity reflects maximum students per class for effective instruction based on grade level and/or subject matter. Program capacity is lower than design capacity.

Based on hard data, Nile Garden — that had 1,045 students at the start of the past  school, year — was on target to reach an enrollment of 1,472 students by 2026 based on growth within its attendance boundaries at the time.

Nile Garden has a program capacity for 1,163 students

At the same time, Veritas School by 2026 would have reached 1,022 students and Woodward School would have been at 1,019 students.

Veritas has a program capacity of 1,087. Woodward has a program capacity of 1,106.

The attendance shift approved in December effectively takes pressure off Nile Garden School for the next two to three years.

That said, growth in southwest Manteca will likely create program capacity at Veritas by 2028 if not sooner.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email