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What direction for Manteca Highs second hundred years?
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Manteca High was once the social center of the community with its performing arts center jammed for concerts and other events.
The 98-year-old campus could revive that role working in partnership with the City of Manteca to create a joint Manteca High/downtown performing arts center. That is just one of the ideas that some have floated when it comes to the future of the oldest campus in the Manteca Unified School District as it is positioned for its second hundred years.
 It is critical for the district to plot a course for the campus before $30 million work of modernization work is done using Measure G bond money. Although actual physical work may not start for another five years how Manteca Unified District proceeds with bond financed safety and modernization improvements will have significant impacts not just on future students and the surrounding neighborhood but much of the school district as well.
The district is starting its planning effort with two community roundtables scheduled for the Manteca High cafeteria. They are Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 3 p.m. and Thursday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m.
They are being billed as an opportunity to “work with a small group to help shape the next evolution of Manteca High School.”
School leaders are seeking feedback on safety, parking classrooms, walking pathways, and other facility needs. They also want to gauge community views on possibly making Manteca High larger by permanently  closing the part of Garfield Avenue that slices through the campus and possibly utilizing multiple story classrooms. Closing Garfield is also a security issue given people can literally walk through the middle of the campus while homeless are often rousted from campus grounds in the  morning before students arrive.
A larger campus designed for up to 2,500 students to house students from new homes with of the 120 Bypass, for example, could harness growth dollars to build a bigger gym. That is something not possible with Measure G funding.
Given that $30 million in bond money has been described as a “drop in the bucket” by Deputy Superintendent Clark Burke when it comes to the long list of campus needs, the district also wants input on what the community believes the first priorities should be in spending the bond proceeds.
Manteca Unified has two major issues coming together at the same time — the need to modernize and improve the security as well as safety of Manteca High plus deal with growth mostly south of the 120 Bypass. That growth could balloon district enrollment by 20 percent over the next four to five years.
The district owns land on Tinnin Road designated for a new high school. The cost to build a high school campus for 1,500 to 1,800 students is pegged at $140 million plus. The big ticket items are extending infrastructure to serve the campus and support facilities such as a gym, football field, swimming pool, and such.
The district is at 96 percent capacity and lacks roughly a third of the funding to build any new school. That missing third reflects a combo of state and local bond money. None of the Measure G bond can be used for construction to accommodate growth. At the same time, the state school bond passed in November is not expected to yield much funding, if any, for new schools per se due to a backlog of modernization projects and existing new school work already approved for reimbursement when the state sells the school bonds.
The likelihood of Manteca Unified pursuing another bond with taxpayers still paying on two existing bond measures isn’t considered a possibility in the near future. That leaves Manteca Unified with only two funding sources for new construction: Mello Roos taxes or some other financial mechanism developers might be willing  to put in place and growth fees assessed on new housing on a per square footage basis.
With elementary schools costing $25 million to $30 million apiece, it is prompting Manteca Unified to look at all potential scenarios.
Almost 80 percent of all growth in the district could come from south of the 120 Bypass. The two closest high schools are Sierra High and Manteca High.
While busing to Weston Ranch, East Union, and Lathrop are options it would be only short-term temporary or could end up adding portable classrooms and overloading campuses. Lathrop High also has potential growth to address in that community although the volume is not as imminent as it is in South Manteca.
Sierra High could accommodate some additional permanent classrooms.
And while none of the $30 million earmarked for Manteca High Measure G work can go to house new growth, how it is spent and the campus configured could play a key role in accommodating that growth. That could mean growth fees collected on new homes could be spent to expand Manteca High.
The Manteca High campus was rebuilt in 1949 with new structures and modernizations taking play in 1993, 1996, and 2002. It consists of a 45-acre campus split by Garfield Avenue. There are numerous program deficiencies related to structures including a gym that can only hold a third of the student body at any given time.