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Growth & class-size reduction pose Manteca Unified challenge
Students in Lora Richters second grade classroom look at assignments on the projector at Stella Brockman School on Thursday. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin

Move into a house within walking distance of a Manteca Unified elementary school and you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.
Fourteen of the district’s 20 elementary campuses have grade levels that are impacted. That means, for an example, if the school near you has no more space at the third grade level and you have a third grader, they will be sent elsewhere.
The situation is only going to get worse.
Not only are more homes being built — the City of Manteca added 508 homes in the fiscal year ending June 30 — but class-size reduction is being implemented again now that the budget impacts of the Great Recession have dissipated.
While no school is impacted at all levels, it is just a matter of time before that happens at Veritas and Woodward schools south of the 120 Bypass where 80 percent of Manteca’s housing growth is taking place. Manteca has 9,779 housing units in various stages of approval. Most are not attached to a Mello-Roos district essentially denying Manteca Unified at least a third of the funds needed to house additional students.
What this means in practical terms is if you buy or rent a house in a specific elementary attendance area there is a chance your child — depending upon his grade level and what class levels are impacted at the school —may be bused to the next closest school that has space at that grade level.
“Staff is doing everything possible to overflow students smoothly and effectively,” noted Deputy Superintendent Clark Burke.
Burke noted that “good staffing practices” in recent years that were implemented by the district have reduced the number of students overflowed to other schools by 10 percent. He credits that to administrators at various sites and the district working with parents to accommodate student loads
The reduction in overflow came despite kindergarten class sizes being reduced by three students at the start of the current school year and the first through third grade class sizes by one student.
Burke noted if a parent has two children in elementary school with one in a grade that the neighborhood school has no space for and the other it does and they want their children to go to the same campus, the district will work with them to find a school that can take both.
If it happens to be the campus where the overflow student would have been sent, the district will provide busing if there is space on a bus for the non-overflow student. But if the closest school to accommodate both isn’t the overflow school for the impacted grade level, parents may have to provide their own transportation for both students.
The schools that are now impacted at specific grade levels are August Knodt, French Camp. George Komure, George McParland, Golden West, Joseph Widmer, Joshua Cowell, Mossdale, New Haven, Nile Garden, Sequoia, Shasta, Stella Brockman, and Woodward schools.

Trying to avoid a repeat
of 1990s disruptions
This is not the first rodeo for Manteca Unified when it comes to overflowing students.
This time around, though, it is being done with the district well aware that 8,312 of the homes Manteca has in various stages of approval south of the 120 Bypass are within district boundaries and could mean at least 6,851 more students added to the current enrollment of 23,906.
That translates into enough high school students to the fill the current capacity of Sierra High and then some. It would also require the equivalent of six new elementary schools.
Based on Manteca’s existing schools, it can cost $25 million to $30 million to build an elementary school and in excess of $130 million to build a high school.
The district is currently working with the city to try and convince developers that forming Mello-Roos districts is the best solution for everyone, especially future families buying their homes.
If the district doesn’t get the Mello-Roos taxes in place to help pay for schools, it won’t be caught flat-footed.
“We will house and educate students,” District Superintendent Jason Messer said.
That, however, could mean year round schools, double sessions or using growth fees that are collected when building permits are issued to add on to existing campuses.
The Measure G bond work that is being done at various campuses including making sure the campus layout will accommodate classrooms for up to 300 more students depending upon the site. At the same time infrastructure such as pipes are being put in so expansion work could be done with minimal effort and cost.
The game plan calls for overflowing future students from new homes in the manner that is now being done.
At the same time there is a desire to avoid a repeat of the 1990s when the school district adjusted high school attendance boundaries to accommodate growth. What happened at one point families in some cases living less than a half mile from East Union High weren’t able to attend school there due to the large numbers of students from Weston Ranch. That situation changed after Weston Ranch High was built.
To avoid such a situation on the highs school level, it could mean if Sierra High or Manteca High don’t have the space to house new high school students from south of the 120 Bypass, the district could bus them to Lathrop, East Union or Weston Ranch high schools.