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Campus work adds to COVID challenge at Manteca High
work MHS
Students filter in and out of campus in a timely manner upon being released for the day on Tuesday.

Manteca High had its fair share of challenges during the return to in-person learning.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the century-old campus is undergoing construction in becoming a 21st century education center.

"It took a team effort," said Principal Frank Gonzales. "We had to work on finding what was safe for our kids."

He credited those from the Manteca Unified district office along with his administrative team of Assistant Principal Todd Dunaway, Vice Principal Neil MacDannald, and Vice Principal/Athletic Director Bill Slikker.

The district's plan of students attending two-days a week —divided into two cohorts — of in-classroom instructions and distance learning sessions cut the student population nearly in half.

"We had about 800 students today (B cohort) and 850 (A cohort) the other day," said Gonzales on Tuesday.

Those fewer than usual numbers helped out with the plan in place of providing a flow among students traveling through campus without creating congestion, he noted.

Temporary fencing around Winter Gym and the existing locker rooms during construction of the nearby future state-of-the-arts athletic facility featuring the large gym and swimming pool — coupled with the work taking place on South Garfield Avenue —  enabled students to filter out to the designated pickup area in a timely manner after being released for the day.

Garfield Avenue from the entry point of Moffat Boulevard was where cars came single file, turning into the parking lot towards the designated pickup point and looping back out under the watchful eye of campus monitor Doug Hayes on this day.

Gonzales was impressed with the efficiency and timeliness. Most students were off campus within 15 minutes.

He knows there's still a long road ahead during work that includes currently-under-construction eight new classrooms across the street from the old gym.

Gonzales indicated that Winter Gym can expect to get a facelift with the return of windows, currently boarded up, expected to bring in natural lighting. The old locker rooms will be converted into a room for aerobics, he added.

Construction of a 2,250-seat gym with foyer will also include a swim complex in the area once occupied by the Pennebaker Softball Field.

"We will still honor Pennebaker," said Gonzales, pointing out at plans for a spacious plaza outside the sports venue expecting to carry out that name.

Cost is pegged at $62 million. Once completed, the MHS principal said the campus will look more like a college setting.