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MUSD eyes $2.5M for track at WR High
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Sierra High School might not be the only campus in Manteca Unified School District to have an all-weather track after all.
And Weston Ranch could soon get what they were promised long ago.
After debating the merits of investing the money into the low-maintenance option for the last two years – agreeing only that something needed to be done to improve the safety of the track – the Manteca Unified Board of Education moved forward with a compromise proposal Tuesday night to spend $150,000 to hire an architect to complete the design work necessary for the $2.5 million improvement.
Once those plans are in place, the board will take a closer look at its finances – and the potential for one-time money from the State of California that is expected to filter in after Governor Jerry Brown’s budget is approved on July 1 – and come back to determine whether it’s feasible to go ahead with the full construction likely wouldn’t begin until at least February of 2019 at the earliest.
While the decision marked the first time that the district has taken steps down the road towards installing an artificial track on a high school campus since completing the plans for Weston Ranch High School several years ago and then abandoning them due to lack of funding, the partial step towards what many in the Weston Ranch community have long been calling for was seen as vital by some on the board.
Board member Eric Duncan, who represents Weston Ranch and has coached both football and track at the high school, called the proposal a “major necessity” in the eyes of the South Stockton community. He said that unless something drastic is done the $2.5 million price tag for overhauling the track and the stadium field would be a drop in the bucket to the litigation costs that the district will incur from injured athletes.
His own son, he noted, ended up having to redshirt his freshman year of college because of an injury that he sustained at the school.  He noted that while work has been done to improve some of the issues at the high school campus – like trapping the gophers that are creating all of the playing field problems that plague the school – there is much more to be done.
The artificial track option was the most expensive of the three that were submitted to the board for their approval – which ranged from a $340,000 option that would have replaced the playing surface of the field with Bermuda-hybrid grass and alleviated some of the drainage issues on the track to a $600,000 option that took further steps towards correcting problems with the track and ratcheting up the drainage improvements.
The lion’s share of the cost for the new track surface, according to Director of Facilities and Operations Aaron Bowers, comes from the extensive drainage system that has to be installed all the way around the track – similar to the system that is currently in-use at Sierra High School and has virtually eliminated on-track flooding during rainy seasons.
Superintendent Jason Messer reminded the board that even with the contingencies that are built into the numbers that were submitted to them on Tuesday, those would more accurately reflect price increases that are a few months out rather than a few years out thanks to a booming construction market that has raised the price of both services and materials and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
The $2.5 million price tag for the Weston Ranch proposal includes contingencies of $200,000 and $195,000 to cover the district for increases to both materials and labor if the market were to rise sharply during the conceptual phase.
Because one-time money would likely be where the board would find the funding to pay for the massive upgrade, most were hesitant to commit to spending money that they dubbed “soft” until the district knew for certain the amount that they were going to receive – rumored to be around $6 million. Messer also noted that such an allotment must be used for a one-time project since anything budgeted over multiple years would have to be offset with cuts for the years that the money is not received.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.