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Hospital quality devices offer robust answer to COVID-19 respiratory droplets & wildfire smoke
lathrop football practiice
Lathrop assistant football coaches Mark Rangel and Justin Miller watch the action during a summer workout on June 17 following MUSD pandemic protocols

Arguably the healthiest place to be today with wildfire smoke and a COVID-19 surge is in a Manteca Unified classroom.

That’s because every of the district’s 1,400 classrooms have hospital-grade air scrubbers.  The Carrier OptiClean units can be set to recirculate air six times per hour using HEPA filters that capture particles as small as .03 microns. Even on the lowest setting they are able to recirculate air every two hours in a 900-square-foot classroom.

The district efforts to make student and staff health its top priority during the pandemic is reflected in enrollment projections for the school year that starts today.

Around 500 students — or roughly 2 percent of the district’s 24,500 students — opted for independent study due to concerns in their household regarding potential COVID-19 exposure.

Most of the protocols that were in effect at the end of the last school year are being followed this school year as well.

*Employees and students are required to go through the online self-screening process each day before they can go to school.

*The district is following the California Department of Public Health mandate for all schools to require students to wear face masks. That requirement extends to indoor athletic practices, games and events and applies to student coaches, athletes, and all in attendance regardless of vaccination status. Masks are optional for outdoor athletics.

*Given the district’s state-of-the-art air ventilation and the universal mask mandate in-person instruction can occur without physical distancing requirements.

*HEPA-6 filtration units have been installed on buses that provide a minimum of 12 air changes per hour. Mask wearing is mandatory at all times while riding a school bus.

*Contract tracing will continue as well any required quarantines will be implemented.

*Even though it is not required by the state, Manteca Unified will continue to post COVID dashboard information on its website of reported positive cases at various campuses in a bid to maintain transparency with parents, students, staff, and the community.

 *Classrooms and offices are cleaned and disinfected once a day.

The air scrubbers are not only arguably the reason why the district’s COVID protocols are more robust than in many other California districts, but they are the cornerstone of protecting student health in the upcoming post pandemic era.

Not only do the air scrubbers remove respiratory droplets form the air connected with COVID as well as other illnesses such as the flu and colds but they clear the air of smoke particles.

That is important on a day like today when smoke from a wildfire burning on a Delta island in Contra Costa County and wildfires raging in the north state have soured air quality throughout the valley.

MUSD Community Outreach Director Victoria Brunn noted one of the positive byproduct of the pandemic is the district’s nearly $3 million investment in air scrubbers.

The district over a year ago before buying air scrubbers and when fires were burning in the Coastal Range was one of the few school districts in the Northern San Joaquin Valley to close on several days when there was particularly severe smoke and soot issues.

The reason was simple. The district was worried about the welfare of students being left on their own as many are in households where both parents work. At the same time there is a number of students who rely on the school district for two meals a day.

Having air scrubbers will make classrooms even healthier places to be when the valley is slammed with wildfire smoke and other air quality issues.

Air scrubbers are also deployed in offices as well as in gyms and multipurpose rooms when required.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email