Upwards of 600 Manteca Unified School District students that have been distance learning are not returning to the classroom this month.
Instead due to COVID-19 concerns they are either joining the Manteca Unified Online Academy or else pursing independent study. There are already 1,200 students who opted to go with the 100 percent online academy at the start of the school year.
The 600 or so students are from households either with someone who is ill in the immediate family or are not comfortable with having their child intermingle with others for a sustained period of time even with the extensive COVID-19 protocols Manteca Unified has in place.
Even though Manteca Unified has taken steps to reduce the number of students on campus at any given time while some districts such as Ripon Unified opted to bring all students back at the same time, there are people that are concerned the measures being taken — regardless of how robust — won’t be enough to keep their families safe.
The Bulletin errored in Friday’s story indicating all classes were being cut in half or would have no more than 15 students at any time. The 15 max occurs in grade levels where teachers and the district contractually agreed prior to the pandemic to limit student to teacher ratios at 30 to 1 or less.
The Centers for Disease Control guidelines does not specify a specific cap of students in classrooms.
And at the high school level where the decision was made to split students attending on any one day by cutting the alphabet in half based on last names instead of trying for a steadfast 50 percent numerical split, there are instances where a higher number of students are in some subjects than others.
An example is East Union High social science department chair Steve Jackson who has 21 students in two classes on certain days.
Jackson also noted he has been forced to shorten the distance between students in classes down to three feet instead of the 6 feet that is generally recommended.
Community outreach coordinator Victoria Brunn said Manteca Unified is using CDC guidelines that call for six feet separation between students when it is practicable.
“That is why we are making masks mandatory for third graders through 12th graders,” Brunn said.
The CDC’s guidance strongly recommends the wearing of masks when there is less than 6 feet of separation between individuals. Brunn noted that is especially critical in indoor situations.
Students at the district’s five comprehensive high schools — Sierra, Manteca, East Union, Lathrop, and Weston Ranch — are being allowed to continue with distance learning through the end of the current semester. However, if they do not wish to return to the classroom next semester due to COVID-19 or other reasons they will need to switch to the Manteca Unified Online Academy or independent learning.
Brunn said having options for families is a critical component of its pledge to provide a safe and effective education for all students.
Altogether, less than 2,000 students — or 8 percent of the students the district serves — have eschewed returning to campuses.
Transitional kindergarten through third graders returning Monday and fourth through sixth graders returning Nov. 16 are being split into AM and PM sessions so they can be on campus five days a week.
The seventh as well as eighth graders returning on Nov. 16 will follow the same hybrid learning schedule as high schools with half the students on campus on Monday and Thursday while the other half is in the classroom Tuesday and Friday. When they are not on campus students are distance learning. All seventh through 12th graders are distance learning on Wednesdays.
The first COVID-19 protocol students will have to follow when on-campus learning resumes Monday happens even before they step out of their home.
They will need to log onto their email on their district issued device for a link they will receive at 7 a.m. daily to complete an online survey asking questions relating to COVID-19 exposure, signs, and symptoms.
Based on the results, they will receive either a green check or a red stop sign. The green means it is safe for them to go to school. A red stop sign will direct a student to stay home and contact the Manteca Unified School District Health Services between 8 and 11 a.m.
Those that receive a red stop sign will also receive a link to complete a contact tracing survey designed to help identify people students have been in contact with and the locations visited.
All of that information is aggregated on a dashboard for each school. Teachers get data that allows them to determine if a student in their class should not be there or hasn’t taken the survey.
Those issues are addressed immediately.
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