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Students retrieve devices for distance learning
Vince Velasquez spent Tuesday retrieving the laptop used by his daughter, Arianna, who is a fourth grader at Neil Hafley. Paraprofessional Kathleen Thaxton is shown handing him the laptop

For the past few days, the multi-purpose building parking lot at Neil Hafley Elementary School served as the drive-thru area for families retrieving the electronic learning devices of their students.

All told, some 400 Dell Latitude laptops – all students of the Manteca Unified School District are issued electronic devices – were made available via curbside pickup at the kindergarten- through- eighth-grade site since the beginning of the week.

“These were the ones that stay in the classrooms,” said Principal Lori Guzman-Alvarez said on Tuesday. “Students in fifth grade and up already had their laptops (at home).”

The district’s 25,000 students will go back to school on Monday, April 6, via distance learning from home using school-issued electronic devices. The plan is to continue distance learning through May 15. The tentative plan is to return to the classrooms on May 18 for the final two weeks of school.

MUSD students have been out of school since March 13. That’s when San Joaquin County Office of Education Superintendent of Schools James Mousalimas, in following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home orders and by SJC Public Health Officer along with Emergency Services Director, recommended the closure of all public schools in the county to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Local students already had that week-long spring break planned at the time of the announcement of the school closures – SJCOE recently extended those closures from early this month to April 17.

At Lathrop High, Principal Greg Leland mentioned that most high school students had already packed their district-issued laptops home just before the school closure. “We’ve had a few who stopped by (to the school) to take their laptops home,” he said.

Meanwhile, Guzman-Alvarez and others at Neil Hafley were thrilled to see the return of students, if just for a few minutes.

“It’s been great to see parents and students at the laptop pickup – I’ve even helped out during the free lunches,” she said.

The latter is the ‘Grab and Go’ meals offered at all the comprehensive school sites in the district. The pre-packaged breakfast and lunch are offered at the school sites, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.

Vince Velasquez picked up his laptop on Tuesday for his daughter, Arianna, who is fourth grader at Neil Hafley.

A retired information technology specialist for SJCOE, he managed to hook up his daughter’s electronic device for classroom instruction.

“The teachers created online lessons using Microsoft Teams,” said Guzman-Alvarez, referring to the cloud-based software used to build these collaborative classrooms.

She also praised the efforts of the library media tech along with IT support services, the paraprofessionals and custodians during these unprecedented times.

As for those without internet service provider, Guzman-Alvarez added that paper packets with school work can be picked up and dropped off at the school office.

It was five years ago that MUSD opted to make electronic devices for all K-12 students as part of the $30 million Going Digital Initiative.

Those in the district are now seeing these devices pay dividends during the coronavirus pandemic.

MUSD will continue with the curbside pickup for laptops through today for kindergarten students. First and second graders picked up their electronic devices on Tuesday while third- and fourth- grade students did likewise on Monday.

Guzman-Alvarez, who is in her seventh year as principal at Neil Hafley – before that, she was the top administrator at Manteca Day and, prior to that, Sequoia Elementary School – added that MUSD Health Services is reaching out to homeless students to make sure they have their electronic devices during these tough times.

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