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Manteca students out until April 6 while April 14 is Ripon return date; MUSD planning lunch service
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Manteca Unified schools are now closed through April 5 and Ripon public schools through April 13 due to the coronavirus emergency.

The decision to do so dovetails into recommendations from the San Joaquin County Office of Education and San Joaquin Public Health Services announced on Friday regarding the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

That means after spring break starts Monday for a week, Manteca Unified will close for an additional two weeks and reopen on Monday, April 6.

Ripon Unified will close for the next four weeks — three weeks of school originally scheduled and then spring break that is later in the year than Manteca. Ripon students return to classes on Tuesday, April 14.

Whether schools will be required to add the weeks of instruction caused by the coronavirus closure to extend the school year into at least mid-June “is something we just don’t know at this time,” said Manteca Unified Community Outreach Coordinator Victoria Brunn.

The authority to wave making up all of the missed days of schools rests with the State of California.

Brunn said Manteca Unified is working on a plan to have lunch service in some form of another for children the weeks of March 23-27 and March 30-April 3 when classes would have been scheduled. Details are being worked out and will be announced next week in various manners including emails to parents.

News broke on Friday that five more people in San Joaquin County have been diagnosed with the virus to bring the total number of cases to eight, Evidence has emerged that some of those cases may have come as a result of community transmission and are not travel-related as the initial cases were believed to be.

One of the factors that went into making the decision, according to Manteca Unified, was the “flattening of the curve” for the spread of the virus so as to spread out the length of time rather than the intensity of the number of diagnosed cases to prevent overwhelming health care services and the ability to care for sick patients including those that aren’t affected by COVID-19.

The decision, however, was not made lightly, and Manteca Unified Superintendent Clark Burke made reference to the responsibility of schools as a “social safety net” in his letter that was distributed to families on Friday.

“After careful consideration and consultation with the San Joaquin County Public Health Officer and the San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools, Manteca Unified School District has made the decision to dismiss school beginning Monday, March 23, 2020 for two weeks, following our regularly scheduled spring break March 16-20, returning April 6, 2020,” Burke said in his statement. “Our leadership team has not made this decision lightly. As we weigh the responsibility of our high-needs population, we recognize our schools provide food, security, and a social safety net for children.

“We understand the impact this decision will have on our students, families, and staff.”

As a result of the decision, all student activities – including sports and before and after school programs – will be cancelled or postponed until after school returns to a regular schedule.

Registration for both transitional kindergarten and kindergarten will also be postponed as a result of the recent development until April 27.

Because Manteca Unified will be going on spring break next week, students will only miss two weeks of class as compared to the three that were recommended by the San Joaquin County Office of Education.

The decision to close schools was a widespread one throughout the region, with some districts in the Sacramento area shuttering until the end of March while others extended their closures through the middle of April.

Plans are currently being developed to allow the district to continue to provide essential services – like feeding low-incoming students at specific sites through the communities they serve – and will be announced next week when the locations and the details are finalized.

According to County Superintendent James Mousalimas, even though children aren’t considered a high-risk group for the virus, preventing its spread and protecting the most high-risk populations played a major factor.

“News of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and its spread across the country and the region has been a cause of great concern. In San Joaquin County, the concern continued to grow this week after the confirmation of six cases of COVID-19, which show evidence of community transmission of the virus in our county,” Mousalimas said in his statement. “After long and careful deliberation, it is my recommendation that all schools in San Joaquin County close temporarily for three weeks, effective Monday, March. 16.

“Schools are an essential service and crucial to our communities. The decision to recommend school closure was not taken lightly. While children have not been shown to be a high-risk group for the virus, the temporary closure of schools may help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in San Joaquin County and help protect our most vulnerable populations.”

During the school closure, Manteca Unified said that it will continue to deep-clean and sterilize classrooms and common areas used by students in an effort to eliminate any health-hazards that may be lingering as a result of regular usage.

More information about the closure and mitigation efforts to stem the impacts is expected to be announced next week.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.