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Manteca Unified & the $1 billion schools challenge
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Ninety-seven years this May voters in what is now known as the Manteca Unified School District passed a ballot measure to form the Manteca Union High School District.
Within days, 19 men in the community borrowed enough money on their own to construct temporary wooden classrooms on the same site that where Manteca High now stands on what was then a spot on the edge of town. The campus consisted of two classrooms, study hall, and library. The wooden structures were covered with tar paper. The roofs leaked when it rained.
A year later on Dec. 31, 1921, voters approved a $200,000 bond to build the campus that included the iconic Manteca High Tower.
Good luck today building a classroom for $200,000 let alone an entire high school campus for 100 or so students.
The current Manteca High campus can trace its building pedigree back to 1949 which is the oldest age of specific structures still in use. Modernizations were conducted in 1993, 1996, and 2002. An additional parcel along Moffat Boulevard was purchased in 2006.
There are 204,919 square feet of facilities on 45 acres. While some of those facilities are 68 years old an audit of structures rated their condition as “exemplary” in the MUSD 2014 Facilities Master Plan.
Manteca High — as well as the Manteca Unified School District and City of Manteca — are at a crossroads.
Manteca High is the second oldest campus in terms of structures that are still in use, after neighboring Lincoln School that dates back to 1947. Lincoln School is almost through a modernization process using Measure G bond money that has brought it into the 21st century. In a tribute to district sensibilities and how taste comes back around including architectural treatment, the original classrooms at Lincoln School now have a modern-industrial look that is all the rage in some quarters.
At the same time, the campus infrastructure put in place for the new multi-purpose room and permanent classrooms replacing portables was done in such a manner to make it easy to add permanent classrooms for another 200 to 300 students.
Manteca High in about five years will undergo a $30 million modernization under Measure G targeting safety, security, and issues such as electrical. It is a drop in the bucket for what needs to be done.
The City of Manteca has 9,700 plus future homes lined up in various stages of approval that can easily take the municipal population from its current 75,000 to 105,000 over the next 20 years. Then there are the multitude of needs and wishes such as a performing art center, recreation facilities such as swimming pools, library, and a rebirth of downtown on the table. Manteca High could be part of the city’s answers to those needs and wishes as well as the reverse.
Manteca Unified — given not just growth in Manteca but elsewhere in the district — is facing the real possibility of its current enrollment of 25,000 students surpassing 30,000 within five to seven years.
Here’s the challenge: How is Manteca Unified and the City of Manteca going to pay for their needs and wants for the next 20 years?
In Manteca’s case its $75 million for recreation facilities, $200 million or so for overpasses and major roads, $33 million for a library, $18 million for a performing/visual arts center, $16 million for a community center, $8 million for a wastewater treatment plant expansion, and real money for water wells, second phase of the surface water treatment plant, and $60 million or so in road maintenance.
That’s chump change compared to Manteca Unified. The price tag for the work needed to modernize existing campuses as outlined in the 2014 Facilities Master Plan is $580 million. Add a new high school at $140 million, toss in six or so elementary schools at $30 million apiece, and figure for inflation and  the cost of borrowing and you’re talking about a cool $1 billion plus.
In the school district’s case funding is being knocked out from under it by national developers unwilling to commit to Mello-Roos districts, the lack of state bond money for schools, and the dubious chances existing residents will pass a bond for new school facilities when they are already on the hook for two MUSD school bonds.
It should be obvious Manteca Unified and the city will need to think way out-of-the-box to get the best possible outcome.
The linchpin to leveraging the best possible outcome for future and existing students districtwide as well as future and existing City of Manteca residents may indeed hinge on what is done at Manteca High in the next few years as part of the modernization footprint.
An option that would involve “super-sizing” the Manteca High campus by reconfiguring it and going to multiple story classrooms buildings to accommodate a larger enrollment would avoid the need to cram more students into all existing high school campuses by employing massive use of busing. If done right, it could add educational opportunities and programs currently not available given what a larger campus can leverage.
The city and school district in looking at the Manteca High and Lincoln School campus as well as Lincoln Park that connects the two sites could partner for solutions that serve both entities when it comes to performing arts, recreational facilities, and even parking.
 That’s why in the coming months community conversations Manteca Unified is planning to have about Manteca High are important not just to Manteca High but the district and the city as a whole.