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Manteca Unified measures keep classrooms open
board members
High school student board representatives attending Wednesday’s remote conference at the district office were, from left, Alejandra Arevalo-Mercado (Weston Ranch High), Arveen Birdi (Sierra High), Sean Michael Marsh (East Union High), Sydnee Navarro (Manteca High), and Joey Sanchis (Lathrop High).

Manteca Unified is continuing with in-person learning even with the surge in coronavirus cases.

Under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new regional stay-at-home orders that will be triggered 48 hours after a region such as the San Joaquin Valley collectively has less than 15 percent ICU bed capacity left, schools that have previously reopened for in-person instruction may remain open, and schools may continue to bring students back for in-person instruction under the elementary school waiver process or cohort guidance.   

“Our mitigation measures are more extreme (than required),” noted Manteca Unified Superintendent Clark Burke on Thursday. “. . . We will continue every precaution and follow the guidance and assess the situation daily.”

The district worked on an exhaustive reopening plan over the summer in a bid to put in place protocols and make physical changes to classrooms and schools that would not simply allow a return to in-person learning but would do so at such a degree to make it resilient as possible to backward slippage in conditions.

That was done to avoid a “Yo-Yo effect” of switching students from all distance learning to a hybrid model and then back to all distance learning when conditions change.

Manteca, with Ripon Unified School District’s decision to revert back to distance learning after a week on the 9th through 12th grade level after they were unable to deal effectively with a COVID situation that arose, has the only public high schools in the immediate area that have in-person learning. Tracy, Stockton, and Modesto aren’t expected to return to campus until January at the earliest.

Community outreach coordinator Victoria Brunn said the return to school plan was fashioned “as meticulous as possible.”

The district’s plan that is now being implemented has two key components. First and foremost student and staff safety is the top priority. That was deemed essential so the district’s main goal of providing each student with the education they need could take place. The district has never wavered from the position the best way to assure the best possible education outcome for its 24,000 students is in-person learning conducted in an environment with strict COVID-19 protocols in place.

Transitional kindergarteners through sixth graders are split into AM and PM sessions to reduce the number on students on campus roughly by half. Seventh through 12th graders were also split with one group on campus Mondays and Thursdays while the other is on campus Tuesdays and Fridays. When they are not on-campus they are distant learning. All students distance learn on Wednesdays.

Measures Manteca

Unified is taking

The district has spent $17.1 million to date on COVID-19 related expenses to make their 33 campuses as save as possible during the pandemic. They are in the process of a $1 million project that will upgrade 2,600 HVAC units districtwide as part of an indoor air quality program to further reduce the potential for COVID-19 transmissions.

A study is being done on a unit-by-unit basis to see which HVACs may just need new filters, if a unit needs to be retrofitted, or it is impossible to retrofit and needs to be replaced.

HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters that pass muster with federal standards remove 99.7 percent of the particles in the air they filter.

Infected people when they breathe, cough, or talk release COVID-19 particles. Large droplets fall but smaller respiratory droplets can remain airborne for 30 plus minutes before they are dispatched via ventilation or captured by an air purification system.

Air purification systems can also reduce the spread of other respiratory illness such as the flu. As an added bonus they can also help reduce allergy issues as well.

To avoid student sharing items in classroom as well as to obtain additional instructional materials required due to mandatory COVID-19 protocols, some $5.1 million has been spent.

The long laundry list can include providing every student with a pair of scissors when before classroom may have shared a half dozen scissors, purchasing new equipment to adapt classes such as physical education to eliminate shared touch points and purchasing additional computers for teachers that the distance learning model required beyond the devices they were already issued.

In some instance portables were relocated where additional space was needed to gain reasonable social distancing.

Other areas the district is allowed to use the money for is to address learning loss and steps needed to bring students up to speed.

The biggest category in terms of how Manteca Unified has spent dollars is more than $5.2 million to pay for public health testing, personal protection equipment, and supplies to sanitize and clean facilities including school buses.

The district has spent over $5 million on masks alone. There are five categories of face masks including face shields and non-medial KN95 face masks.

The district overall has bought almost 1.4 million face masks. That includes 76,800 one-size fit all cloth face masks that allowed four to go to each adult staff member and two per student.

The biggest mask purchase was 1.2 million three-ply disposal face masks.

The district purchased 1,500 infrared contactless forehead thermometers for $65,000.

Sanitizer including wall units and stations has cost in excess of $150,000. That includes 1,500 gallons of sanitizer refill and 2,000 16.9 ounce bottles of hand sanitizer.

Some $4,800 has been spent to date on disinfecting wipes for surfaces, $8,000 on antimicrobial hand wipes as well as more than $61,000 for 27,800 re-useable water bottles.TK through sixth graders received 20 pounce bottles, seventh and eighth graders 17 ounce bottles, and high schoolers and staff 26 pounce bottles.

One thing you will see in Manteca Unified classrooms that haven’t been done in many other schools is the use of three-sided see-through desk partitions made of corrugated plastic.

The district has taken delivery of part of the $20,000 partitions they ordered at $40 a pop. The overall cost will come to $800,000.

Manteca Unified schools

way under 5 percent

threshold set by state

Schools are still required to follow the Schools Guidance issued by CDPH which outlines requirements for safe conditions, testing and tracing. Schools may be required to close if certain percentages of staff and students are diagnosed with COVID-19.

As of Thursday there were 22 individuals — 13 students and nine staff members — out of 27,000 being quarantined due to COVID-19 concerns.

The affected portion of school population is critical as it is used to determine of a specific school campus has to close under county and state health orders.  If 5 percent of a school’s population have at least confirmed symptoms that are tied into COVID-19 cases within a rolling 14-day period, the school has to be closed.

At no school as of Thursday is the combined number of students and staff infected and quarantined above 0.22 percent.

Those with symptoms will be reflected on the Manteca Unified dashboard (accessed at for 14 days after they were first detected. That dovetails into CDC guidelines that indicated a person is no longer contagious are 14 days of the first symptom appearing. The exception is those who become severely ill and require hospitalization. Once the 14 days lapse for that person, they will be taken off the dashboard count.

The district has robust student and staff screening as well as rigid protocols when any evidence surfaces someone may be sick.

Brunn stressed that none of the students and staff that have been confirmed with COVID-19 were infected at a school setting. She added that the district understands it is inevitable that will happen eventually but their goal is to minimalize that possibility as much as they can.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email