The water quality crisis at Nile Garden Elementary School will soon be no more.
On Tuesday the Manteca Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously to start the bidding process for constructing a hookup to the City of Manteca’s municipal water system. The project is being paid for by the California State Water Resources Control Board through a Proposition 84 account for a public water system.
But ensuring that one of the community’s most beloved elementary schools – which has long served most of the rural area south of the Highway 120 bypass – can meet water quality restrictions didn’t stop some on the board from pointing out what could be perceived as the City of Manteca seeking its own interests.
Board Clerk Nancy Teicheira noted that when the district wanted to hookup its administrative offices to the city’s municipal water supply the city forced the annexation into its city limits before it would allow the move – keeping in the spirit of a LAFCo precedent not to create any islands within an incorporated area.
The reality, Teicheira said, was that the City of Manteca needed that piece of property – which included the school farm – to be annexed in order to move forward with the massive Center Point business park project that was ultimately approved.
Teicheira noted that now the city is allowing an out-of-area service agreement to be signed and hinted that there might have been some self-serving motivation in that as well.
The approval on Tuesday will fund the drilling for a test well at a City-designed location, “according to the City’s requirements and needs.”
Last year elevated levels of arsenic that were found in a test of the well that serves the school, and the site has been using bottled water for its students for the last three years. The federal tightening of arsenic restrictions for what is considered “safe for human consumption” has created problems for some rural wells near agricultural areas.
A similar situation emerged at the district’s Louise Avenue campus, which forced an annexation that was at the time unwanted by some who were concerned with how the new designation would affect how the school district’s farm would operate.
Nile Garden, along with fellow rural school companion New Haven, are consistently among the district’s best-performing schools and even though it has long served a rural community is now within the sphere of the fastest-growing area of the city.
The option of building a new school to serve the 600-plus students that attend was deemed “financially irresponsible” since it would cost upwards of $40 million to complete.