Ripon’s leaders have taken bold steps over the past few decades to protect the smart-town atmosphere.
By bold I mean they bucked convention and made decisions that were not designed to accommodate growth or strengthen the city’s bottom line but to insure the quality of life that is cherished by those that have been in the community for generations and newcomers alike isn’t diluted by “textbook planning.”
Two of the biggest were nixing plans for a second Stanislaus River crossing and essentially making it tough for big box retailers to locate in Ripon.
A regional transportation initiative called for a future Olive Avenue interchange on Highway 99 to connect with a future bridge crossing of the Stanislaus River. And while city leaders saw its merits for enhanced traffic flow, they also saw it for what it ultimately would be — a growth inducing move.
And even if Ripon were able to keep a relatively slow and stable growth rate designed to carefully absorb expansion so it could weave seamlessly into the community fabric, it would have opened the door for potentially massive housing developments on the south side of the river that would have impacted Ripon significantly. It also would have made Ripon less safe as criminals would have had more points to flee making the city more vulnerable to crime.
The effort to tighten rules for big box retailers effectively blocked a Super Wal-Mart from going forward along Jack Tone Road in the east side of Highway 99.
It not only “saved” downtown to allow Ripon to boast of one of the healthiest Main Streets in the Valley with a clear small-town feel but it also opened the door for newer and smaller “chain” ventures more suited to Ripon’s style that would have effectively crossed Ripon off their list for potential expansion had a Super Wal-Mart landed in Ripon.
There is now another threat to the Mayberry-style vibe Ripon has striven to develop.
The threat is coming from Manteca. And it threatens to make it tough if not ultimately financially impossible for Ripon Unified to maintain small elementary schools that the community cherishes. It also will eventually dilute Ripon High as being a true Ripon high school.
The threat is in the form of more and more homes being built within the southeast city limits of Manteca generating students who attend Ripon schools.
A century ago when school boundaries were drawn no one envisioned Manteca being a city of 81,450 within 25 years of having 120,000 residents. This entire region was about farming and not being de facto affordable housing for the Bay Area.
Students who live in Manteca proper are being bused six plus miles one-way to attend Ripon schools when their family life is clearly rooted in Manteca. Some of those already making that trip live within two blocks walking distance of Woodward School in Manteca.
It’s not a great situation for those families. Imagine living within two blocks of Park View School and having your kids bused to a Manteca Unified campus.
While neither district is flush with money to build new schools, Manteca Unified is by far better situated with existing capacity as well as funding mechanisms given they’ve had community facilities districts in place for years to help generate funds for new schools. Ripon Unified is looking at CFD options but even if one were formed today involving new subdivisions being proposed it likely would take more than a decade if not longer before there was a sufficient property tax base to issue bonds.
That’s why the Ripon community needs to have a serious discussion now instead of later if they want to end up with close to 2,000 students if not more with City of Manteca addresses going to Ripon schools.
Yes, there is likely to be a time in 20 years or so when Ripon Unified would be in a position to build at least one elementary school in the part of its district that is within the City of Manteca boundaries. There will never, however, be enough Ripon Unified students from areas within the City of Manteca City limits to justify building a Ripon Unified high school campus within the City of Manteca. No disrespect to Manteca, but the odds are it will dilute the advantages that generations have embraced having a high school that is truly synonymous with the Ripon community. The solution is simple.
If the Ripon community decides through the Ripon Unified School board that they don’t want City of Manteca students going to Ripon schools, the trustees would need to direct Ripon Unified School District Superintendent Ziggy Robeson to make a phone call to Manteca Unified School District Superintendent Clark Burke. Then if the Manteca Unified board agrees both districts go to the San Joaquin County Board of Education to make boundary line adjustments.
Manteca City officials are already getting an earful from Manteca homeowners in the impacted area that are upset how having their children bused to another community is stressing their family life and making it difficult to be involved as much as they want in the schools educating their children.
The bulk of the money to educate a student is based on daily attendance funds from the state. There is some property tax at issue that primarily comes into play in a big way when schools bonds or property tax overrides are passed.
Ripon decided a second river crossing and opening the door to big box retailers wasn’t worth what extra revenue they may have brought given a much bigger price that would have been paid in terms of quality of life.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.