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Manteca Highs best future is Moffat Blvd
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Manteca High was built in 1920.
It consisted of two small classes, a study hall, and library on the eastern edge of Manteca along Old Highway 120. Nobody pines for that original campus. No one is alive that remembers it.
Two years later Manteca Union High School District voters approved a $220,000 bond measure. A California mission-style campus was built. The new complex included an auditorium that seated 550 and had a stage that doubled as a basketball court.
The last trace of that 1922 campus disappeared on Oct. 3, 1969 when the beloved tower came crashing down after being slammed repeatedly with a wrecking ball dangling from a crane.
Manteca High has changed a lot in its 96 years of existence as has Manteca itself.
Sometime in the next 12 to 18 months, Manteca Unified will start planning what will be the third and arguably the most important reincarnation of the high school campus.
Roughly $30 million of Measure G money has been set aside for the first part of what will ultimately be a complete campus makeover.
This is an undertaking that the City of Manteca, downtown property owners and businesses, housing developers, the school district, taxpayers, and — most important of all — the Class of 2050 all have a major stake in.
Manteca High because of its very location to downtown is the most high profile of all of the district’s 30 campuses. It is also the most problematic when it comes to security, basic needs for a quality secondary education in the 21st century, traffic congestion and growth.
If the reincarnation of Manteca High is done right, the $120 million plus replacement investment that now exists filling more than 8 city blocks will effectively serve the needs of future students and the community as it heads toward the 22nd century. If it is done without maximizing the site, future students will suffer along with taxpayers and downtown.
Just as important, the right moves now could ease future downtown congestion, enhance safety, and make Moffat Boulevard relevant again.
Manteca High needs to be reoriented toward Moffat Boulevard.
To make this happen two key things are needed:
uThe City of Manteca needs to turn Garfield Avenue between Mikesell Avenue and the southern edge of the student parking lot over to the school district.
uThe Manteca Unified board needs to use eminent domain to take control of what properties they haven’t been able to buy along Moffat between Garfield and Sherman avenues.
Even without planning for the future, those two moves are more than justified doing today.
Manteca High is living on borrowed time. Thanks to Garfield cutting through the campus it creates a security nightmare. Traffic is kept in check during the school day by just two gates while anyone can walk through the campus using Garfield Avenue — the mentally-ill homeless, sexual predators, gang members, and drug dealers. Yes, there are campus monitors but be serious. Their job is compromised protecting the school’s 1,800 students by the lack of security fencing on the stretch of Garfield.
 When — not if — an incident happens the City Council will in all likelihood take steps to remedy the situation. But why wait until a student is seriously hurt or killed? This is a highly dangerous situation that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Manteca.
Getting the main entrance off Yosemite Avenue will help ease the 2:15 to 2:45 p.m. Monday through Friday school year gridlock on East Yosemite Avenue.
It will also provide an additional boost for the Moffat Boulevard corridor the City of Manteca has invested more than $15 million in since 2006 building everything from a BMX park, transit station and community center to street reconstruction.
The other advantage of a seamless Manteca High campus with Garfield Avenue ending at Mikesell Avenue are the options it opens up for re-planning Manteca High to assure adequate facilities for the existing enrollment as well as future growth.
Tied in with the adjoining Lincoln School campus, it would significantly increase options for the high school and set the stage for elimination the not-very-secret homeless sleeping spot sandwiched between Lincoln School, Manteca High, and Lincoln Park.
There are opportunities that a Manteca High-Lincoln Park-Lincoln School community complex presents.
One of them is city participation in the modernization and support facility expansion of the Manteca High performing arts center. For relatively few dollars compared to the $18 million price tag a from-scratch performing arts center that city leaders obtained a decade ago, the city could obtain joint use of the performing arts center to expand community-based opportunities from theatrical arts such as dance recitals, concerts, and other cultural gatherings.
Just like with the swimming pools, community and school uses would rarely overlap.
And while Manteca High’s theater may be on the small side for a community of 75,000, you need to remember the City of Manteca has no performing arts facility today.
The challenge is for elected leaders on the City Council and school board to not sit back and wait for staff or the other agency to make the first move.
This is a cost-effective way to make Manteca better.