Manteca schools aim to be in sync

MANTECA -- The constant shuffle of pencil boxes and desks associated with year-round education will be a thing of the past at five Manteca elementary schools come summer.

The schools finally have enough room for everyone to attend at once, according to school officials.

The move, approved by the school board Tuesday, means almost all students in the Manteca Unified School District, including high schoolers, will have the same schedules and the same vacations. The change applies to Woodward, Lathrop, Widmer, Veritas and Mossdale elementary schools. All but Veritas and Mossdale were on multiple tracks, meaning that different classes would use the same classroom on a staggered schedule.

"Originally, we went on year-round only because there were not enough facilities to house all of the students at the same time, and the board was very clear at the time that the moment we could, we would go off year-round," said Jason Messer, assistant superintendent of education services. "The number of students hasn't increased as rapidly as originally projected, but we were building for the increase so the building has caught up with the students."

The exception is in Weston Ranch. Although foreclosures and a stale housing market means three elementary schools there have enough room for all of the students now, that's expected to change when the housing market picks up. So those elementary schools -- Knodt, Great Valley and Komure -- will remain on year-round schedules.

The board directed district staff to work on a modified traditional schedule for the remaining schools. That most likely will be a school year with multiple, shorter breaks spread through the year. An automated telephone message went out to parents Wednesday evening with information on how to participate in the decision-making process. The district will create a link on its Web site and hold community meetings before a proposal goes to the school board in February, Messer said.

Ideally, he said, the first semester would end before winter break as it does now for high school, and the changes would have to take into account sports schedules.

The modified schedule probably won't be a drastic change from the traditional school year, said John Fultz, director of student data services and testing.

The changes were good news to parents weary of scheduling vacations around conflicting schedules.

Karen Cadiz managed to squeeze in one camping trip last year, and the family had to take separate cars to accommodate two class schedules for her three children.

"This is good news for our family because I was looking at another four years of varying schedules," Cadiz said.

The flip side of the year-round calendar is monthlong breaks spread through the year that some teachers and families covet for the chance to travel in the off-season and return before students have wandered too far from their studies.

"It's easier to keep my kids motivated for school," said Dena Montalvo, who has two children at Woodward, seventh- grader Sean Montalvo and second-grader Matthew Montalvo. "They're off for a whole month, and they don't have to go back and relearn what they have been learning in class. After three months, they get bored and then there is this big learning curve while they're getting them back up to speed. This way, they are only off for a month, so they don't lose much."

But she said the new schedule might be the best of both worlds if it has multiple, shorter breaks because her two children would be on a similar schedule when Sean goes to high school.

The big question now is what that schedule will be, she noted. "We'll wait and see."

Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at imiller@modbee.com or 578-2324.