There is now a framework in place to allow Manteca Unified students to return to school as conditions allow.
One condition is pending approval of a San Joaquin County Health Department waiver for transitional kindergarten through sixth graders to allow them to return to the classroom regardless of countywide COVID-19 conditions.
The other condition is for 7th through 12th graders as long as San Joaquin County stays in the “red” and doesn’t revert to “purple” in the four colored tiers of COVID-19 conditions for reopening set down by the state.
If conditions warrant, transitional kindergarten through 3rd graders as well as high school juniors and seniors will start returning to school campuses Nov. 2. Then fourth graders through high school sophomores would return on Nov. 16 as allowed based on conditions.
Students in TK through 6th grade will physically be in classrooms four days a week — Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Half of each grade level will attend a morning session. The other half will attend an afternoon session. Time will be allowed between morning and afternoon sessions for sanitizing classrooms.
All TK-6th graders will distance learn on Wednesdays,
High school students along with 7th and 8th graders will be assigned in-person learning and distance learning days Monday through Friday with all students distance learning on Wednesdays.
MUSD Community Outreach Coordinator Victoria Brunn said the board stressed the importance of having younger students in-school for in-person teaching as much as possible when they decided to go with the AM/PM scheduled that is similar to a plan they adopted in July.
Brunn said the board’s staggered grade-level return is “safety with intentional” steps to assure staff and students well being are addressed. The staggered approach also allows faculty and support staff to make needed adjustments to allow for a smooth transition.
Those students whose parents are not comfortable with returning to the classrooms due to health concerns stemming from the pandemic will have options available to them including the Manteca Unified Online Academy or independent study based on the need of the individual student.
San Joaquin County Public Health Director Dr. Maggie Park, as she is allowed to do under state law, has imposed an additional restriction for school re-openings to occur under the move to the red tier. She has ordered schools without waivers to wait until San Joaquin County has meet red tier criteria for two weeks before they can reopen.
Also, the state has not stipulated what “some” means in terms of student numbers. That is being left up to counties to determine. While it could mean 50 percent at a time, it could also mean a lower percentage in a classroom such as 25 percent in a nod to Centers for Disease Control determinations that older students are more susceptible to catching, transmitting, and getting sick from COVID-19.
Given the state is not allowing waivers for 7th through 12th graders, if San Joaquin County slips back into the purple tier those students would be barred from campuses. Meanwhile, those TK through 6th graders that are on campus due to waivers would still be able to be taught in-person.
The state also has carved out learning cohorts for the most academically at-risk students to allow them on campus in grouping of eight or less for targeted teaching.
These are typically K-12 students that in a normal school year would have been pulled out of classrooms for reading recovery, English as a Second Language and other programs targeting deficiencies as well as special education.
This covers those who have special needs, the homeless, and foster children among others.
When students do return
& if COVID creates issues
Besides social protocols and the issuance of refillable water bottles and several face masks to each student that are among $1.7 million of COVOD-19 safety improvements the district has spent money on so far, the district has rigid protocols in place aimed at protecting the health and welfare of staff and students.
Every student and staff member will be required to self-monitor every day before they can step on a campus. This will involve a just completed digital assessment platform that they must provide answers to questions about if they have a stuffed nose, cough, and similar issues.
Each person will have their temperatures taken daily as well.
If a student displays any symptom tied into COVID-19 they are first quarantined on campus and then at home. The other students in the class or cohort are secured and monitored. They could also be barred from returning to school for a set time period.
Should COVID-19 numbers go up in the county that would not lead to the closing of schools that have waivers or cohorts. That is not the case however for seventh through 12th graders.
At any time there is an outbreak at a school, however, that school site will be closed. That means among Manteca’s 34 campuses several or more could be closed due to COVID-19 due to an outbreak.
The district has a work infection prevention team that meets daily and involves people from child welfare services, risk management, operations, health, and other district departments to monitor developments and decide on a course of action. That team’s efforts will be stepped up even further as students return in a bid to make sure the district stays on top of COVID-19 concerns.
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