Rules in place allowing Manteca Unified athletes to safely condition and work on skills during the COVID-19 pandemic were violated by one of the people that helped put them together — a high school coach.
That lapse in judgment was caught after a smartphone video surfaced showing the Weston Ranch High boys basketball team scrimmaging prompting District Superintendent Clark Burke to suspend all sports conditioning activities throughout Manteca Unified.
The shutdown that went into effect within hours of district officials being made aware of it impacts all high schools — Manteca, Sierra, East Union, Lathrop, and Weston Ranch. It came just two days after the balance of Manteca Unified grade levels — fourth through 11th graders – returned for in-person learning two days a week after being divided into two groups so that only roughly half of the student population on campus at any given time.
A student athlete participating in the scrimmage has since tested positive for COVID-19.
Burke has ordered all of the social protocols for sports conditioning to be reviewed. Also all coaches — including assistant coaches — will again be made aware of the rules that they helped put in place to assure safety. If Burke is satisfied the need to follow established protocols is clearly understood and that they will be enforced, he may lift the suspension.
Community Outreach Coordinator Victoria Brunn confirmed once an investigation is completed and if evidence warrants it, the coach or coaches will be disciplined.
“We are using this as an opportunity to educate and reset,” Brunn emphasized, noting the district wants everyone to understand what is at stake if rules are not followed before sports conditioning is allowed to resume.
The district is only allowing skill building and conditioning under current conditions. Under rules adopted after extensive input from coaches throughout the district that means face masks are mandatory as is social distancing. And when balls of any type are used — basketball, football, volleyball, baseball, or softball — either each player has to use their own ball or else the ball must be disinfected and wiped down before another player uses it.
The earliest actual sports could resume is with practices in mid-December and games in January with football being among the sports that could start then. Pandemic conditions will be taken into account before the California Interscholastic Federation allows competition to resume.
The student-athlete, along with those players and/or students that were in close contact with him, is being quarantined for 14 days.
A number of the Weston Ranch players also play on an AAU basketball team that traveled to Arizona recently to participate in a national tournament.
As such, that — as well as a separate case at McParland School in Manteca — reflects why Manteca Unified put in placed robust protocols and procedures to deal not just with trying to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 on the district’s 33 campuses but also dealing with students or staff that may have contacted the virus elsewhere.
In the McParland case, when a parent informed school officials their child had tested positive for COVID, the district’s tracing staff currently consists of six full-time nurses, immediately determined those that had been in close proximity with the individual. Even though all of those in the student’s cohort may have been wearing face masks, used desk partitions, and taking other social distancing measures it was determined they were all needed to be quarantined including the teacher.
The district plans to expand the staff it has dedicated to tracing beyond the six full-time nurses.
Brunn noted that Manteca Unified has taken a number of steps to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 beyond what the California Health Department has required of schools that have been allowed to reopen.
The one COVID-19 case at McParland that has 1,171 students and staff means 0.117 percent of the school community is currently positive.
The threshold the San Joaquin County Health Department has set for forcing an individual school campus to be closed due to current positive COVID-19 cases is 5 percent. That means 58 students at McParland would need to have COVID at the same time to create a situation where health issues are substantial enough to trigger a school closure.
State and county health officials are allowing schools that have developed protocols and have already reopened to stay open even though almost all of California has now slipped back into the most restrictive tier.
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