Manteca Unified is a rarity among school districts in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
The school board during an emergency meeting Monday unanimously decided to stay with an in-class option when school reopens Aug. 6 that reflects the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation in San Joaquin County.
That option is now an alternating schedule that allows students to attend five days of school every two weeks while spending five days with at-home learning. The exact format has yet to be determined. As things stood on Monday, it will either be:
*Alternating days (possibly Monday and Thursday for half the students, Tuesday and Friday for the other half) with every other Wednesday switching between the two student groups.
*An alternating schedule with blended learning that could have half the students attend classes one week and the other half the other half the following week. The days that students are not in class they will be engaged in remote learning.
That is in addition to the 100 percent virtual academy option that the district had been working on for a year and the board has submitted a charter school application to the state. Unlike most other districts that are buying into a pre-packaged distance learning program with local teachers administrating it, the Manteca Unified virtual curriculum is being developed and taught 100 percent by district teachers.
The board’s decision also allowed staff leeway to respond to changing conditions.
Should the public health situation worsen, the district would move to 100 percent off-campus learning for students. And if it improves to the point it is permissible, on-campus learning would again be offered using a full day modified schedule.
On Monday San Joaquin County Public Health Officer Dr. Maggie Park and San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools James Mousalimas issued a joint press release stating they “strongly recommended that local schools begin the new school year providing only distance learning through at least the end of August.”
Manteca Unified spokesperson Victoria Brunn emphasized that the board made its decision “based on doing what is best for the students.”
In this instance it is making sure students have critical in-person contact with teachers while at the same time being able to put in place protocols designed to keep students, teachers, support staff and their respective families healthy and safe.
The district’s virtual academy that has more than 1,000 out of the 24,000 Manteca Unified students already signed up has built-in periodic meetings between the teachers and students.
Brunn stressed that the COVID-19 situation is fluid meaning in the next 24 days the district could be forced to alter course. The school board originally in mid-June approved a plan that would have allowed for a full school day with extensive COVID-19 protocols in place along with social distancing in addition to a 100 percent remote learning option.
The alternating day models would cut the number of students in various classes roughly in half.
The district is working on a framework that would allow it to accommodate family needs as much as possible such as if there is a high school student with an elementary sibling. In some instances families may need their students to attend school on the same days as the older sibling may be the only babysitting option if both parents work.
The various details for the framework such as COVID-19 protocols, bell schedules, and such are being hammered out today. More information on the return to school plan will go live this evening sometime at www.mantecausd.net/returntoschool.
Among the details unlikely to be decided until the school board meets on July 21 is to and from school buses.
That service can only be allowed if districts adhere to Centers for Disease Control guidelines and limit buses to one-third capacity due to the need to social distance.
This creates two problems. First, under state and federal law special needs students must be bused regardless even though local districts receive no funding from the state and federal governments to do so. That means the busing for special needs students could triple. It is currently $11,000 per special needs students and could go up to $33,000 for the year.
The other issue is to and from busing for other students that is now at roughly $3,500 per student would balloon past $10,000.
In each case the additional money would need to come from the general fund. That in turn would take away money for classroom supplies, books, and support as well as teacher compensation.
Most other Northern San Joaquin Valley school districts including all public schools in Stanislaus County are starting the upcoming school year with distance learning.
New cases, death rate
dropping in SJ County
There have been two new deaths in the last three days bringing the number that have succumbed to COVID-19 in San Joaquin County to 70 as of Monday at 1:50 p.m. There are currently 204 people hospitalized with COVID-19.
Due to a significant rise in testing, there are now 4,118 people that have tested positive for the coronavirus. Only 5 percent are ill enough to require hospitalization. The rest either have mild symptoms and have not yet or won’t become sick. Since early March 6,988 have tested positive. Of those 2,870 no longer test positive for the virus.
The increase testing also has slashed the death rate in half as it now stands at 1 percent.
Based on San Joaquin County Health Department statistics, July 3 marked a high point in new daily cases reported at 383. It dropped down by over 45 percent to 203 on Monday.
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