Families of the 24,000 Manteca Unified students have a decision to make in the coming weeks — either shift to a 100 percent virtual learning academy or return to physical campuses with a slew of COVID-19 protocols in place when the next school year starts on Aug. 6.
The Manteca Unified board Tuesday rejected an all on-line approach as well as returning to the pre-pandemic learning environment. The trustees on a 5-2 vote — with Kathy Howe and Eric Duncan dissenting — went with offering students and families “A” and “B” options. Howe and Duncan favored going to two-staggered sessions each day with half the students attending in the morning and the other half in the afternoon.
That means Manteca Unified now has 50 days to launch an all-new online academy as well as significantly change what on-campus education will look like.
Not only do much of the nuts and bolts have to be addressed, but the district also needs to get on the same page with the Manteca Educators Association that represents teachers.
At the same time the district is going ahead with a state mandate for high school students to start the school day later.
The idea is to avoid two major changes in back-to-back years — adjusting the education model to the realities of COVID-19 and the early start date mandated by August 2022 — and have them implemented at the same time. The change means elementary schools will start at 8 a.m. and high schools at 9 a.m. That means end times for elementary students at schools that were not starting at 8 a.m. already will be released from school earlier in the afternoon. At the same time high schools will be dismissed later in the afternoon closer to 4 p.m.
Manteca Unified Victoria Brunn added trustees and the district wanted to make sure what changes were made could be done in a fashion that further improves the education offerings designed to meet individual needs.
Brunn emphasized that a lot of details need to be worked out such as the status of to- and from-school bus transportation as well as what classrooms will look like.
Generally speaking, elementary schools will remain fairly structured. High schools, however, in a bid to further upgrade education offerings, will have a portion of the school day dedicated to “support activities” aimed at re-enforcing classroom time.
The challenges of Model A — the fulltime, modified on campus learning inclusive of all reasonably accommodated wellness practices and safeguards — are numerous.
As an example, the modified on-campus program may incorporate state and county health COVID-19 guidelines such as:
*daily self-temperature checks for all students and staff
*marked one-way traffic in hallways
*training for all faculty, staff, and students regarding appropriate COVID procedures
*bathroom monitoring to avoid overcrowding
*suspend use of drinking fountains and encourage use of reusable water bottles
*high “touch point” areas will be sanitized throughout the day
*limit visitors and volunteers to the school site to essential business only
*highly recommending staff and students wear face masks.
A survey of parents that obtained 6,400 unique and unduplicated responses showed that 1,400 families favored the 100 percent online academy.
The application to the state Department of Education to allow Manteca Unified to operate an online academy for kindergarten through 12th grade will not be the same as the “crisis” distance learning response.
The academy would give parents and students the freedom to customize their education as well as the flexibility to schedule school whenever they want at times that fit their schedule and at a pace that is best for their child.
Live sessions and opportunities for support would be available by appointment.
Essentially students could learn anytime and anywhere as long as they have a computer and Internet connection. Students would be provided a computer device equipped with all the necessary applications upon enrollment.
Enrollment will open in the coming weeks. You can go to www.mantecausd.net/onlineacademy or email email@example.com with questions.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin