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MUSD reopen
Elementary students in a COVID-19 adapted physical education class exercise with Hula Hoops while wearing face masks.

Manteca Unified high school students starting Monday will attend four full days each week of in-person learning.

They will join kindergarten through eighth graders who are already back four days a week. All students will do distance learning on Wednesdays. That day will be used for more intensive cleaning of classrooms beyond the daily regimen.

Unless conditions warrant a step back due to COVID issues, Manteca Unified expects to end the last six weeks of school with the four days of in-person learning and one day of distance learning.

It is similar to what Modesto City Schools will switch to on Monday.

Stockton Unified starting April 29 is returning to in-person learning for the first time this school year. Students are being split into two groups. One group will do in-person learning Mondays and Tuesdays while the other group will be Thursdays and Fridays. All students will do distance learning on Wednesdays.

Tracy Unified continues to do two days of in-person learning and three days of distance learning.

MUSD educators are working toward a return to five full days of in person with robust COVID-19 measures in place when the 2021-2022 school year starts in August.

Among larger school districts in the Northern San Joaquin Valley Manteca Unified has been able to return students sooner than their counterparts and so safely.

As of April 16, there were 26 confirmed cases among 27,000 students and staff. That included 22 students. District officials indicated the lion’s share of those cases have been student athletes.

Based on contract tracing all of the infected students were exposed outside of campus settings including many playing competitive sports.

There is an average of 700 student athletes being tested in any given week. In sports with higher contact such as basketball a student may be tested twice in five days.

To date there has been no on-campus transmission or outbreaks.

MUSD Community Outreach Director Victoria Brunn said “this tells us mitigation measures in the classroom are working.”

Since the start of the pandemic in mid-March 2020, the district has focused on the goal of returning students to in-person learning in a safe fashion by exceeding health department minimal standards.

Manteca Unified has been so successful at it that the California Department of Public Health tapped Lathrop High Principal Greg Leland this week to participate in a panel on safe school reopening that was designed to help districts throughout the state move back to in-person learning.

District Superintendent Clark Burke lauded teachers, support staff and the board for “prioritizing students over fear.”

That has required the district not only exceed recommendations to keep staff and students safe but to take measures to be prepared when the opportunities arose.

Manteca was able to take advantage of the small window of opportunity in November when San Joaquin County slipped into the red tier for the first time as they had modified facilities and had a plan in place and teachers already instructing classes remotely from their classrooms.

Under state protocols in place at the time, districts that had already transitioned to hybrid learning that involved in-person instruction when the county moved back into the purple tier could stay there as long as COVID cases among students and staff did not exceed specific levels.

Manteca before then had already taken advantage of the state allowing targeted cohorts — English learners, special education students, homeless students, and those with significant learning struggles — to return to in-person learning in small groups for limited periods of time.

The foundation for the district to move students back to the classroom quicker and more robustly than other districts its size and larger is being credited to the district having a balanced budget.

Burke noted Manteca Unified, unlike a number of other districts, did not use the initial extra funds from the state to backfill budget shortfalls. The balanced budget allowed the district to order personal protection equipment and things such as dividers for desks ahead of most other districts in California.

Equipment and supplies were in place along with a staff that was on-site and prepared. That meant when the state cracked open the door to return to some form of in-person learning for all students Manteca Unified was ready to slip through the crack before the door was shut again.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email