Manteca can have a community center in place within a matter of a few years and make better use of a historic building.
At the same time Manteca Unified could maximize the educational synergy potential for Manteca High and Lincoln Elementary School.
There could even be additional soccer fields and baseball fields built for community use and possibly a continuation high school/adult school in town close to public transportation and a chance for the city to pocket bucks from the sale of land ideal for future high profile highway commercial use.
All it takes are those elected to represent the best interests of the people of the Manteca Unified School District and the City of Manteca to sit down, explore partnerships, and swap “cards” they hold of equal value.
The first possibility involves the former Lindbergh School campus on North Street.
After it no longer met the Field Act for K-12 public schools it was converted to Manteca Adult School use. When the adult school program was shifted to the district complex on Louise Avenue, Lindbergh School became home to the district’s health services and part of their maintenance operations.
There is history of the campus being used for city recreation programs when it was an adult school. City exercise, gymnastic, and dance classes used the auditorium.
The auditorium can be used for those purposes and much more given it has a stage.
As such it can be used to launch a city-based performing arts program as well as be used for concerts, art shows and other events. That is what the auditorium was used as for decades.
The classrooms are ideal for recreation programs such as art and music classes. Given they have wooden floors a classroom — or two combined — could be turned into dance studios. The classrooms can also be used as meeting rooms for community groups whether it is youth programs or organizations such as camera clubs or art guilds. There is even a preschool set up in place that would dovetail ideally with the city’s Creative Kids option.
The city could add a low-key after school program and summer program on one or two classrooms in conjunction with the courtyard that could possibly be operated in conjunction with a non-profit such as Give Every Child a Chance or the Boys & Girls Club.
The former school office is set up to provide space for the Manteca Recreation and Community Services department.
The campus — when the courtyard is combined with the auditorium — could host community events.
The campus is just two blocks as the crow flies from the heart of Manteca at Yosemite Avenue and Main Street. As such it is in the edge of downtown just as much as is Lodi’s Hutchins Square — a school from the same era as Lindbergh — that has been converted for community use.
At the same time space would be freed up at the Civic Center campus for municipal offices.
What the school district would get in return is Lincoln Park.
The city does lose a 60-year-old inadequate swimming pool that needs a lot of money to bring it up to today’s standards. That said there are three swimming pools — including the new one being built at Manteca High —where the city can conduct swimming lessons, open pool time, and practices/meets for the recreation competition team.
The city wouldn’t lose summer use of the lighted baseball field.
The sheltered picnic area would be lost but so would one of the biggest hangouts for homeless in Manteca. As for the playground it could be reconstituted into a mini-park playground as Ripon has in the Dutch Meadows neighborhood along Powers Avenue. It could be relocated closer to the Lincoln School multi and fenced in such a manner that it can be secured during school hours for school use and made available at other times, on the weekend, and during the summer for public use.
This would make land available to increase the footprint of Lincoln School and to make improvements to capitalize on the synergy of being connected to the Manteca High campus.
There is also another potential “swap” that could benefit the city and school district.
Calla High — one of two Manteca Unified continuation school campuses — is located at the corner of East Highway 120 and Austin Road. It is not exactly an ideal location for a school. As such modernizing the school with bond receipts isn’t exactly a prudent move.
The city is in the process of trying to secure 8.1 acres along South Main Street for a homeless navigation center in the rear and possible affordable housing fronting the street.
Why not do a deal where the school district invests monies they have now from bonds to build a continuation school that would double at night and during the summer as an adult school?
Not only would the continuation school/adult school be on city bus routes but it would also be three or so blocks from the transit center.
It would also be next door to both the homeless navigation center and possibly affordable housing where the adult school services would be a perfect to help people improve their lot in life where they can support themselves.
If that were to happen the district could actually build a campus in fairly short order instead of the dubious investment of funds in the Calla High site.
The city might not have a use for the Calla High site that makes sense. But unlike the school district that cannot keep property that isn’t used for education purposes for more than five years without being forced to sell it and turn the proceeds over to the state, the city could sell the property for commercial use and divert the proceeds for other uses.
To sweeten the pot, the school could toss in a 99-year agreement to allow the city to use part of the 60-acre high school site on Tinnin Road that the new 1,301 home Griffin Park neighborhood that has broken ground will be up against.
The city could develop soccer fields, baseball fields and more at the site. The school district could — if and when they build the high school — use the facilities and pay for the maintenance. The 60 acres are currently part of the school farm program to avoid the state forcing a sale.
With a little horse trading the city could end up with the sports fields and community center portion they proposed three years ago as part of an $80 million recreation complex envisioned north of the Big League Dreams sports complex.
Given Manteca High will have the biggest small gym seating 700 as well as the biggest large gym seating 2,250 when the current work underway at the campus is done, there is an opportunity for the city to run robust recreational basketball and volleyball programs. There are also three high school swimming pools the city can use.
It may not be everything the aquatics center/community center/sports field complex plan envisioned but it would get such amenities in place sooner than later and at a much lower cost. It also doesn’t preclude the city from working toward an aquatics center or a larger community center down the road.
This way the city can offer space for recreational and cultural programs it currently doesn’t have even though the city is just four to five years from 100,000 residents. It also means if the city follows the advice of Mayor Ben Cantu Manteca it could put in motion a game plan that could sure the city when it ends up with close to 130,000 people will likely have two community centers as well as a regional park that would be needed to provide robust amenities of such size.
It is clear that there are a number of things both the city and school district could put in place in fairly short order if they simply sit down and find a way as partners to establish facilities and amenities that benefit both the community in general as well as students.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org