Facade to the Miami-Dade County Public Library building with an art exhibition entrance located within the downtown 2nd Avenue community and touristic neighborhoods on June 26, 2019. Photo and Caption: Hernando Sorzano/Shutterstock.com
Florida public schools have been reopening with in-person instruction for six weeks except for Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS), the state’s largest and nation’s fourth-largest school district. The MDCPS School Board had adhered to local public health officials’ recommendations to not open schools for in-person instruction until new cases declined significantly. Reported infections had been in steady decline in mid-September when the board approved a staggered reopening, beginning with elementary school students October 14 and all students who chose in-person instruction in classes by October 21.
State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran made it known that in-person learning must resume no later than October 5. In Miami-Dade County, after a full day of debate last week, along with plenty of feedback from concerned parents and teachers, they delayed their reopening to at least October 14. Corcoran stated that he believes that’s too long of a wait, considering that Miami-Dade County transitioned to a Phase 2 reopening two weeks ago.
He said that students must return to brick and mortar schools no later than Oct. 5.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools teachers’ first 2020-21 non-optional planning day is on Friday. The district employees are preparing schoolhouses to reopen Monday and Tuesday for students in kindergarten and first grade.
Karla Hernández-Mats, the president of the United Teachers of Dade, said some schools are not ready to open yet due to not being equipped to do so.
In a statement sent to Local 10 News in Miami, the District sent a list of Some of the items that the District has purchased for schools, including:
• Surface Cleaners & Detergents
• Disinfectant Wipes
• Hand Sanitizer
• Surgical-Disposable Masks
• Fabric-Reusable Masks
• Flooding Sprayers
• Electrostatic Sprayers
• Safety Goggles
• Tyvek Suits
• Face Shields
• Sneeze Guards (Acrylic Partitions)
• Water Bottle Filling Stations
• Social Distancing Signage
• Transparent-Clear Surgical Masks (Special Needs)
• Disposable Gowns / Shoe Covers (Special Needs)
• Isolation Room Supplies
• Medical Gloves
• Privacy Screens
• Resting Cot.
Hernández-Mats said public schools need support from the private sector. She said this is because the public sector has failed them. Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration, she said, had the “audacity” to push for reopening under the threat of cutting funding and without providing support to do so safely. Students with special needs will also return on Monday “to become familiar with the new environment,” according to the district’s reopening plan. The remaining elementary school students and secondary transition-grades students return on Wednesday. Students in all remaining grades return on Friday.
About 40,000 students will return to brick-and-mortar schools Wednesday, October 7, including all elementary school children and students in sixth, ninth and 10th grades. By Friday, 130,000 students whose parents opted for in-person instruction will be in classes. Miami-Dade County public health officials cautiously were optimistic the county, Florida’s hardest-hit by the pandemic, could begin to reopen its schools without risking another spike in COVID-19 cases by early to mid-October.
A special school board meeting has been called for Tuesday, according to MDCPS Chief Communications Officer Daisy Gonzalez-Diego. In a memo sent by Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho to the board, he announced that the meeting would be held “in person” in the School Board Administration Building auditorium.