Garfield Avenue may hold the key to making Manteca High as secure as possible.
The stretch of Garfield Avenue between Mikesell Street and a point north of Moffat Boulevard just past Precision Automotive cuts the 97-year-old campus in two. It leaves 15 classrooms plus the school’s football field, baseball field, tennis courts and PE area to the east of the street and the remaining 65 classrooms, two gyms, library, swimming pool, theatre arts building and office to the west.
And while the potential of cars striking students as they move between classes was eliminated over a decade ago when the city agreed to a plan to allow gates to close the street section to traffic during the school day, it still leaves a big security problem.
“Anyone can walk through the middle of the campus,” Manteca High Principal Frank Gonzales noted during a recent tour.
Teachers say they have encountered questionable individuals as well as the homeless walking during school hours crossing paths with students as they go between classes. PE instructors say they have to stay particularly vigilant due to how anyone can walk onto the fields students are using when school is in session.
Some of the 15 classrooms east of Garfield have no fencing around them. That has prompted protocol that calls for teachers to keep classroom doors locked during classes. One of the four campus monitors is always stationed in the immediate area.
Garfield Avenue is posing a particularly vexing problem for Manteca Unified officials as they prepare to determine the best way to improve security and safety as well as modernize the campus using $30 million of the $159 million bond voters approved in November 2014.
They can’t completely fence off the campus to create a secure zone because of Garfield.
Also, one of the most effective ways to enhance security involves a scenario that would relocate the office so the main flow of traffic into the campus is orientated from Moffat Boulevard.
Currently, students arriving and departing that drive cars go in and out of the student parking lot on Garfield via Moffat.
Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum said he would back the city staff sitting down with school officials to talk about the future of Garfield Avenue.
Police Chief Nick Obigacion noted from a traffic point, the city would have to determine how much of an impact abandoning that section of Garfield would have on vehicle movements on nearby streets running between Moffat and Yosemite avenues such as Powers Avenue and Sherman Avenue which borders the Manteca High campus to the west.
The section of Garfield Avenue is closed to traffic from roughly 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on school days. Neighbors say very little traffic flows on Garfield at other times unless there is a school event.