Manteca Unified voters approved the $159 million Measure G bond measure for two key reasons — improving safety and modernizing aging school campuses.
And no campus in the Manteca Unified District has a greater need in either category than Manteca High. That’s why the school board has earmarked $30 million to start addressing Manteca High campus needs in the third wave of bond projects.
The linchpin to making the campus as secure as possible hinges on being able to permanently close a section of Garfield Avenue. As things stand now, the street — which is closed during school hours and events — is still open 24/7 to pedestrians. It makes it impossible to secure the campus as there are classrooms on both sides of Garfield Avenue.
City Manager Elena Reyes said Thursday that the city is open to the idea of permanently closing Garfield Avenue.
“We believe there is a functional solution in place,” Reyes noted in a memo. “If the school (district) wants to do this we would be happy to work with them on a solution.”
Messer has indicated that securing control of Garfield Avenue is critical to what is seen as the most optimum way to enhance Manteca High campus security by reorientation of the campus entrance from East Yosemite Avenue to Moffat Boulevard by relocating the office.
But in order for that option to be explored effectively in time before a decision needs to be made on specific plans, the school district needs to have an answer on the viability of taking control of the section of Garfield Avenue in the relatively near future.
Garfield Avenue poses a problem in that not just the homeless but anyone can walk through the campus 24/7 as the street is only closed to traffic during school hours and certain events. There are additional problems once campus monitors end their work day of the homeless cutting through campus to reach a popular area for low-key encampments between Lincoln School, Manteca High, and Lincoln Park. It has led to holes being cut in the Manteca High fencing as a short cut not just to reach that area but the Lincoln Park community picnic shelter at night. The homeless have also been roosted in the morning from sleeping at various locations around the football field and even under bushes along Garfield Avenue as students are starting to arrive at school.
Messer has indicated the district would like to secure both ends of Garfield with fencing. As it stands now about 20 classrooms on the eastside of Garfield Avenue during a lockdown have a high vulnerability as the only protection to secure that part of the campus is by locking the classroom doors.
Up until the late 1990s there was minimum fencing at the Manteca High campus. That changed after the mid-1990s when a female student was attacked and raped after school hours in a campus bathroom. Underscoring the vulnerability of the campus due to its location and not having a modern-day site configuration much like Sierra High was an incident a decade ago. That’s when armed robbers fleeing the Bank of America headed toward the campus. One ended up breaking into a nearby home and holing up until a SWAT team and tear gas were able to get them out.
There have also historically been issues with some of the residency motels along Moffat. Crime reports over the years reflect a high number of parolee arrests as well as incidents involving drugs and knifings.
A move to re-orientate the school to put the office on the southern end of the campus while allow enhanced security. It also could improve traffic flow issues after school and work to accelerate further upgrading along the Moffat Boulevard corridor.
The City Council in February of 2010 authorized the district to place steel gates to allow the road to be closed.
The gates were placed in the road just south of Mikesell Avenue near the main gym at the northern edge of the student parking lot south of the swimming pool.
Traffic and the safety of students walking across Garfield Avenue during the school day to reach classes drove the district’s request in 2010. The district was required to provide insurance coverage to protect the city from liability.
There were no objections voiced to the temporary street closure during the school day by either nearby residents or businesses seven years ago.
Reyes noted the city needs four points to be considered when discussions start in earnest with the school district:
uThe entire street can’t be closed. There are homes north of Mikesell Street that front Garfield Avenue.
uClosing the section of Garfield would shift traffic traveling between Moffat and Yosemite to either Powers Avenue or Sherman Avenue.
uAccess for public safety would need to be maintained.
uIf permanent closure occurs easements would need to be created for city water, sewer, and storm drainage lines.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org