New elementary students east of Interstate 5 in Lathrop could be bussed to a new school in southwest Manteca as the first impacts of a predicted enrollment growth surge starts slamming the Manteca Unified School District.
Lathrop growth and the reality that developers during the next five years are posed to build in excess of 1,000 homes south of the 120 Bypass in Manteca is creating the initial challenge for the school board in determining the best first move they have with limited funds to build new schools.
Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer noted the district has roughly $60 million available that can be spent on new schools from growth fees imposed on new homes to Mello Roos funding. Developing a new elementary school has a $25 million to $30 million price tag.
“We’re looking at the best options to present to the board,” Messer said.
That best option might be building the Tara Park school first. It is located to the southwest of the proposed $40 million McKinley Avenue and 120 Bypass interchange the City of Manteca is now pursuing.
In terms of travel time it is roughly midway between Mossdale School in Lathrop and Veritas School in south Manteca.
The next surge of home building in Lathrop is expected to take place near Lathrop High. There are three new neighborhoods either being built or site work started on between the Tara Park site and Veritas School.
The district has the Ethel Allen School site that it can also develop in Lathrop east of Interstate 5 as well as the Rustic School site near Fig Avenue east of Airport Way in south Manteca. Besides the land for a possible high school on Tinnin Road — also in South Manteca — the school district has no other undeveloped school sites that it owns.
The Rustic site is landlocked crossing it off the list.
Pursuing a high school given current funding, construction funds anticipated from development, and pressing elementary housing needs over the next 10 to 15 years is a long shot at best. First, the need for another full-size high school of 1,800 students is farther out than the need for elementary schools. The high school campus would also take $120 million to build or twice the resources the district currently has.
While Lathrop is growing, it won’t grow as much as South Manteca in the next 10 years. That said when the time comes that room is no longer available for Lathrop students attending the charter school Banta School District runs at River Islands at Lathrop or the nearby River Islands at Lathrop Academy charter school, Messer noted Mossdale School will not be able to absorb the students.
All three elementary school sites — Ethel Allen, Tara, and Rustic — are also within the 200-year floodplain. Messer said state hasn’t made it clear yet whether those school sites could be developed based on progress the cities of Manteca and Lathrop are making to put in place 200-year flood protection as mandated by State Senate Bill 5.
At any rate, it could take nearly five years from the time the school board tells staff to proceed with a new elementary campus before all approval hoops and construction are completed.
Manteca Unified is also exploring options of adding to existing elementary schools that have been modernized as well as rethinking the Manteca High campus so it can handle growth.
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