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Health top priority in return to classrooms
lincoln return
Teachers explain to second and third grade students returning to the Lincoln School campus Monday — as well as their parents — the new rules for arriving and departing school.

Second and third graders at Lincoln School spent Tuesday afternoon getting familiar with campus protocols aimed at maximizing efforts to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.

It was just one step of a meticulous plan that has been tailored to the specific nuances of the Powers Avenue campus, repeatedly vetted by staff, checked thoroughly for compliance to COVID-19 realities by the San Joaquin County Public Health Department, and inspected for completeness with an on-site visit by the top Manteca Unified team led by Superintendent Clark Burke and Assistant Superintendent Roger Goatcher.

“It is going to be great to have students back,” noted Lincoln School Principal Rudi Fowzer. “I miss them dearly.”

Judging by the expressions of students that haven’t been on campus since mid-March when the declaration of a pandemic emergency by Gov. Gavin Newsom led to an abrupt switch to distance learning, they missed being at school just as much as Fowzer misses them.

Lincoln School — just like at the district’s other 22 elementary schools — are bringing small groups of kindergarten through third graders onto campus this week to introduce them to changes and protocols being put in place for social distancing and the prevention of the spread of COVID-19.

The first 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. 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.

Unlike in early March when students arriving at school would gather in clusters waiting for the main gate to open or parents and kids moving around and about in the drop-off zone, the pandemic era arrival and departure from school will be different.

Parents dropping off children are required to stay in their cars. Those walking to school — with or without parents — have been directed to line up on sidewalk decals placed the prerequisite six feet apart outside the front of the school waiting for the campus to open.

Given that transitional kindergarten through third graders when they return Nov. 2 and fourth through sixth graders when they return Nov. 16 are split into AM and PM sessions so they can be on campus five days a week, no more than 15 students will be in a classroom at any given time.

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.

That means Lincoln School will not have more than 288 students on campus at any time given time out of an overall enrollment of 575.

To further reduce students congregating or bunching up, Lincoln School will use four gates to access the campus when in-classroom learning resumes.

Students on Tuesday were adhering to the mandatory mask rule. During their campus tour to see social distancing improvements as well as to learn about the rules in place, each student visited their classroom where a district issued water bottle, a plastic bag containing two masks and COVOID-19 instructions for their parents were placed on their desks for them to take home.

The re-fillable water bottles are a must as almost all drinking fountains have been removed and replaced with a push button tap for refillable water bottles as well as two or three push faucets to wash hands. Paper towel holders as well as soap are also available.

That is in addition to two hand sanitizer stations. There are still a few drinking fountains in the district, including one at Lincoln School, that have yet to be converted due to a backlog issue with suppliers. Those drinking fountains have been turned out and covered with plastic.

Furniture in classrooms was winnowed down to only what was needed. Vacant desks and unneeded items such as tables were removed to allow for maximum distancing.

No students will share desks. Instead desks have been paired up in twos. Each desk is set aside for students from different sessions.

Students on Tuesday were shown hallway and sidewalk paths marked by decals and told how people will be moving about campus going in one direction on one side of a sidewalk and the other direction on the other side.

Restroom access is being limited with decals forming lines outside while students wait for bathroom capacity to be freed.

Lunch service will be different. All students will be eligible to receive free lunches that will be served in classrooms.

As far as physical education and recess, items that are shared such as playground equipment and such are taped off. Fowzer said teachers have come up with creative ways to teach PE such as the purchase of Hula Hoops that can be used by one student for an extended period of time before being sanitized for the next class.

Fowzer noted Lincoln School has plenty of outside grassy areas that can be used.

All visitors will be required to have their temperature taken. Their movements will be primarily limited to a small area of the administration building.

Adequate time has been built in between AM and PM sessions to allow for custodial staff to sanitize classrooms and other touch points on the campus.

 All teachers will have touchless thermometers in their rooms, sanitizer and extra masks in case students forget to bring theirs to school.

Fowzer noted the protocols are subject to change as the understanding of COVID-19 evolves.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email