Just two weeks ago, Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he was hopeful there was still time for Florida's coronavirus outbreak to deescalate enough to physically reopen schools.
Apparently, time has run out. During Wednesday afternoon’s school board meeting, Carvalho announced schools would reopen a week late, on August 31st, and all instruction would be online.
The school district showed a video of classrooms set up for distancing, with desks spread apart, and strict sanitizing protocols ready to go. But Miami-Dade County’s COVID positivity rate is 17%, way above the minimum target rate of 10%.
“We are ready to resume schooling, our teachers are ready, our principals are ready, our students are ready, I believe our parents are ready," Carvalho said. "Unfortunately, our community is not."
All students will start the year with distance learning, but it won’t be the same experience students had at the end of last school year. The district is using a new platform called My School Online, which officials say is more user-friendly, more effective, and holds both students and teachers accountable.
“(The platform ensures) guided instruction, monitored instruction, much more interaction between the teacher and the student in a way that is supervised by the principal following the replica schedule of what a student would experience in a traditional schoolhouse model,” Carvalho explained.
The superintendent said all students would begin the day at 8:30 a.m. and follow their class schedules throughout the day. As for sports, athletes will be allowed on campus for training and practice.
Face-to-face, classroom instruction will resume in October, if the pandemic cooperates.
“I want to be clear and honest about one thing: the likelihood that we will be able to achieve six feet of separation between students is very small. That's a recommendation that the CDC itself has abandoned," Carvalho warned. "Which is why we will be emphasizing the mandatory wearing of masks as soon as you enter a bus, as soon as you enter a school."
There is also a plan of action in place in case a student or teacher tests positive for coronavirus. Carvalho said that a positive test would not necessarily result in the "wholesale shutting down of a school," but rather that "mitigation strategies" would be taken to isolate all individuals who may have been exposed.
The district says it will announce on September 30th whether the area's coronavirus numbers have gone down enough to open up schools, which would happen on October 5th in the best-case scenario. Ff that happens, students will choose between going to school every day or continuing distance learning from home. The hybrid options, which would have combined both, have been eliminated.
Next week, a guide to the new school year will be sent to all parents, who will also be receiving a free thermometer. The week between August 24th and the 31st will be used for parents, students, and teachers to get used to the new My School Online system.