The pressure is coming straight from the top.
From the President, to the Secretary of Education, to the Governor of Florida, local school districts are being told to reopen fully in the fall and essentially ignore the pandemic.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools will respond to local pandemic conditions, according to the superintendent.
“Even though there’s this big push to return kids to school, and I get it, the physical presence of students in schools with caring teachers is the best way of teaching children, but we need to exercise flexibility considering local conditions and Miami-Dade today is still the center of the nation’s epicenter,” said superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
Carvalho says the district is monitoring the county’s ICU capacity, overall hospitalization rate and the coronavirus testing positivity rate, which stood at just over 28% on Monday.
“Those metrics right now are not favorable for Miami-Dade,” Carvalho said. “The positivity rate for Covid19 cases was at 6% exactly one month ago so where will it be six weeks from now is anybody’s guess, unless the community actually commits to restricting its behavior, to embracing social distance to wearing of masks,” Carvalho said.
The superintendent said the nation’s fourth largest school district will be guided by science, not politics.
As the New York Times revealed today, the Centers for Disease Control compiled a 69-page report for federal officials, outlining best practices to reopen K-12 schools and colleges. It was not released to the public and it supports the approach of superintendents who, like Carvalho, are making decisions based on local conditions.
“Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, and acceptable and be tailored to the needs of each community,” the CDC report says.
Miami-Dade’s PTA president told us parents don’t know what to expect or what to do.
“They want to know what the options mean, what the online school environment is gonna look like,” said Sandra West, the Miami-Dade County PTA leader.
Carvalho says remote learning will be improved this time around, with the possibility of teachers teaching from their classrooms instead of their living rooms.
“What we envision is going to be a continuous, remote teaching and learning opportunity for those parents who opt for that modality, with a new platform, new content, but the guarantee of continuous remote teaching on the part of teachers,” Carvalho said.
The district is currently in the process of compiling responses to a survey in which parents are asked to choose which method of learning they prefer. 140,000 have responded and so far, 44% have chosen distance learning while 55% want their kids to be physically in school if pandemic conditions permit it.
So as Carvalho says, it’s up to the community to do the things everyone should be doing already to bring the pandemic under control. If people want their kids to be able to physically go back to school, they need to do their part by wearing masks, physically distancing, and washing their hands as often as possible.