Manteca Unified students at the greatest risk of falling behind academically — special needs, English as a Second Language learners, foster kids, and the homeless among others — could start returning to campuses as early as Monday.
Those in transitional kindergarten through sixth grade may follow suit within a month or so. As for those in the seventh through 12th grades, as it stands now they won’t have in-person learning until all of San Joaquin County advances successfully through the four color stages of COVID-19 conditions as dictated by the state.
The Manteca Unified School District board Tuesday approved moving forward with allowing cohorts or groupings of not more than 16 at-risk academically students at a time to return to campus not for standard classroom instruction but for specialized learning. The board also authorized the district to apply for a waiver from the San Joaquin County Health Department to allow in-person transitional kindergarten through sixth grade teaching to resume.
It was a unanimous decision on both counts. Board member Bob Wallace was not in attendance.
The decision came after nearly 60 parents, students, and teachers gathered outside the district office before the board meeting to demonstrate support of efforts to reopen schools.
Parents today will be receiving letters outlining the board’s actions.
Those who are parents are guardians of at-risk academic students will also be notified that the district will start offering on-campus learning assistance. They will need to sign permission slips for their child to return to campus.
“It is not mandatory they do so,” Manteca Unified Community Outreach Coordinator Victoria Brunn stressed. “It is on a voluntary basis so if someone has concerns in their household.”
Brunn said the first students in the learning cohorts could start returning to campuses as early as next Monday with a goal of all impacted students being able to do so within the next two weeks.
They will not be on campuses full-time or necessarily every day. And when they are on campus it likely will be for one to two hours at a time. It will be similar to “pull out programs” where students are taken out of class for focused attention with what they are struggling with whether it is reading or understanding English.
The initial return to campus affects all students through 12th grade that are part of the at-risk groups.
What board action means
for TK thru 6th graders
The path forward for returning to school campus for traditional classroom instruction is more up in the air for transitional kindergarten through sixth graders.
The board’s waiver request got the ball rolling. Once it is approved, the district administration will then go back to the school board to discuss the next step.
Initially it is likely only transitional kindergartners through first or third graders will return. Fourth through sixth graders would be phased in afterwards.
They are the first to do so as the loss of in-person instruction at that age is more critical than for older students. Younger students are also less at risk from COVID-19.
The waiver doesn’t place restrictions on how many students can return to a classroom at one time as long as social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols are in place and enforced.
Among likely options could be whether to bring back TK through first graders or TK through third graders first as well as whether student numbers per teacher would be slashed in half via morning and afternoon sessions or alternating days of attendance.
Brunn noted that the district views “in person learning as critical.”
At the same time they want to move forward deliberately and cautiously to safeguard the heath of students and staff.
If conditions warrant it, the county could order a return to all-distance learning with a requirement that school districts comply within three days.
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