Manteca Unified appears headed for students going to school two days a week for in-classroom instruction and two days a week of distance learning once they are allowed to return to campus.
Classes will be divided into two cohorts or groupings. Cohort “A” will go to school on Mondays and Thursdays while on Tuesdays and Fridays they will attend distance learning sessions. Cohort “B” will go to school Tuesdays and Fridays while on Mondays and Thursdays they will attend distance learning sessions.
On Wednesdays students in both cohorts will participate in distance learning.
Teachers will have the option of working from home on Wednesdays.
That is just some of the details in a memorandum of understanding dealing with pandemic related issues reached with the Manteca Educators Association that is going before the Manteca Unified school board for possible adoption when they meet Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
The bottom line is every student will be physically in a classroom two days a week while the other three days they will be distance learning. The hours of attendance whether it is in-person or online will be the same.
The board has applied to the San Joaquin County Health Department for a waiver to allow transitional kindergarten through sixth graders to resume in-person learning. Even though San Joaquin County is rated as being among the most at-risk counties from COVID-19, the county has issued 17 waivers so far to allow schools to resume on campus instruction.
Unless the county rejects the school district’s plan or COVID-19 conditions worsen, some students are likely to be back in classrooms for traditional instruction next month. The district plans to do a rolling return meaning initially only several grades will return such as transitional kindergarten and kindergarten followed by groupings of other grades.
There are no waivers being issued currently for 7th through 12th graders so they can switch from distance learning to the classroom.
Some students will be returning to campuses on Monday for specialized learning. It will be only for a few hours at a time and not every day. This covers academically at-risk students such as English as a Second Language learners, homeless, foster kids, and special needs from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
The MOU expiring June 30, 2021 covers 25 distinct areas.
It includes teachers having the option to work outside their 7.5-hour contractual workday to tutor students in strategic cohort groups to mitigate learning loss and receive $50 an hour with a maximum of 20 hours.
Any teacher assigned to general education classes in the TK thru 8th grades will receive an additional $100 a month if the class size is one or two students above the limit. This will start after Jan. 4, 2021. The teacher must agree to the class size limit increase.
Teachers with the 100 percent online academy that contractually will have no kore than 40 students apiece can volunteer to take up to two extra students for an additional $200 a month.
COVID-19 safety protocols are spelled out. Each teacher will also receive six reusable cloth face masks as well as two re-useable face shields.
The MOU offers an early retirement option for those teachers who may qualify and for a variety of reasons such as COVID-19 health concerns wish to take. It includes three dates the early retirement option can be taken — Jan. 4, 2021; Feb. 26, 2021; and June 30, 2021.
Early retirement will also provide a cushion against what could be a cut — or extended deferral — of state funding for schools in the fiscal year starting July 1, 2021.
The option would give eligible teachers up to 60 percent of their final year salary to retire early.
How the early retirement works can be illustrated by taking a $100,000 salary — a pay level that is not uncommon for long serving teachers — and applying it to two options that someone retiring early has.
The district, like they did in 2009 when they last offered early retirement incentives, provides two options on how the $60,000 incentive is paid to the teacher. One is on a lifetime basis that can add $300 to $400 to a monthly retirement check.
The other is a 5-year plan where the teacher would receive around an additional $1,000 a month on top of their retirement.
For every two teachers making $100,000 a year that exercises such a choice, the district can hire three teachers with 10 years each of classroom experience, cover the payment to the firm handling the early retirement, and still save money.
The financial fallout from the pandemic is uncertain. While the district is on solid financial grounds this year due to sufficient reserves as well as opting in March after the pandemic hit not to fill 100 vacant teaching and support staff positions that is allowing it to weather the state deferring 11 percent of the money until July 1, 2021 that it needs to cover the $256.4 million cost of running the district this school year, the following school year will be trickier.
The state — that has had a massive hole blown in its budget with a $54.3 billion deficit after the pandemic closed down much of the economy — plans to defer up to 40 percent of the money local school districts need to operate in the 2021-2022 school year. School districts have been warned that deferrals could be larger or budget cuts may happen.
If that should occur Manteca Unified could be faced with the need to furlough staff and/or eliminate positions.
The district and MEA have a three-year contract already in place through the 2022-2023 school year that commits 85 percent of all new general fund money the state grants in annual cost of living increases that aren’t tied to specific programs to go to teacher salaries and benefits. The contract covers all conditions of employment.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the district and MEA to negotiate a reopening memorandum of understanding (MOU) to address safety conditions and other arrangements for the current school year.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org