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Manteca may need to look at money for Ripon schools
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Growth is coming to Ripon Unified.
Between new development along Ripon Road near Mistlin Park and housing being built in the northwest portion of the district within the City of Manteca, Ripon Unified Superintendent Ziggy Robeson expects the need for a new elementary school will increase in the next few years.
And it is possible that a second new elementary campus will be needed not too long after that school is finished.
Making the growth dicey is the need to finance new school construction.
Ripon Unified voters a few years back approved a $25 million bond measure that allowed for the replacement of aging portables and modernization at Weston School and Colony Oak School.
While general obligation bonds are one source of construction money, districts also rely on development fees and state bond money if it is available.
Robeson noted that the district may also have to explore options such as Mello-Roos districts to assure there is adequate funding.
“We’ve had a good working relationship with the Ripon City Council,” Robeson said.
She said it is critical that a similar relationship be developed with the Manteca City Council.
The district already buses a number of students about six  miles one way from new homes built in Manteca just two blocks from the Manteca Unified Woodward School elementary campus.
“You can drive down the street and on one side students can walk to school and on the other side they are bused to Ripon,” Roberson noted. “People want their students to be able to walk to school.”
Two Manteca City Council members and two Manteca Unified board members along with staff have started conducting 2 by 2 meetings to explore school needs and funding options.
There is no such dialogue going on between the City of Manteca and Ripon Unified even though there are several subdivisions moving forward within Manteca’s city limits that will generate students for Ripon Unified in addition to Orchard Park that is now under construction. At build-out, the 252 homes could generate 260 students or almost a ninth of Ripon Unified’s existing enrollment of 3,100 students.
Meritage Homes is just the start off what could be an onslaught of new homes being built within the City of Manteca city limits where students would attend Ripon Unified.
Some of the homes in subdivisions along the future extension of Atherton Drive just south of Woodward Avenue also will be in Ripon Unified as are 800 homes that Richland has discussed building on the former Hat Ranch property where the 30,000-square-foot Hat Mansion stands just south of Pillsbury Road.
And while there is no current project moving forward, the  approved 1,049-acre Austin Road Business Park  includes 2,258 traditional single family homes and 1,840 multi-family units that are projected to generate 1,983 students,. Of those, 58 percent would live within the boundaries of the Ripon Unified School District. It would take two kindergarten through eighth grade schools and 16 new high school classrooms to accommodate the students at full build-out of the project.
If the Austin Road homes and all others that Manteca has approved or is considering maps for within its city limits but are part of Ripon Unified are built it would generate half of the number of students now enrolled in Ripon schools.
While cities have no legal authority to outright require developers to enter Mello-Roos districts and school districts have no authority to require them, if they are not in place it becomes difficult for developers to build homes given schools that are on year round schedules or are on double sessions make it extremely difficult to sell new homes.