Will school look and feel the same as the “before times,” before the pandemic? No, but there will be an option for Miami-Dade County Public Schools students to physically go back to the classroom five days a week.
The school board unanimously passed the district's reopening plan Wednesday night at a virtual meeting.
“Our plan includes the ability to quickly pivot to an online or distance learning model should conditions worsen significantly,” said Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
The district’s reopening plan includes new coronavirus safety protocols and modifications, including plexiglass dividers to protect teachers.
The four options for students include going back to school full-time, staying home for full-time distance learning, and two hybrid models. One has kids alternating school and home every day, the other hybrid plan has students going two days to school, two days at home to accommodate block schedules.
Contact tracing will be done if anyone on campus tests positive for COVID-19, and when students get to school, they will notice physical changes and masks will be required.
“Part of the plan relies on increased social distancing, but we cannot guarantee six feet of distance. In fact the department of education, in their guidance to all districts in Florida, recognizes and asserts that six feet of social distancing in a classroom between desks is probably impossible to be accomplished, that is why the wearing of masks will be a requirement,” Carvalho said. “We’re gonna do our very best in terms of social distancing in the classrooms, our very best in terms of utilizing non-traditional educational space like media centers, like gymnasiums for the purpose of amplifying educational space, but the likelihood that all schools will be able to accomplish six feet of separation between desks is very, very small.”
Carvalho also is aware of the American Academy of Pediatrics recent statement that three feet of distance between desks is sufficient and of the AAP’s position that school districts should make every effort to return students to the classroom.
The plan places a high priority on keeping teachers and faculty safe, which is part of the reason the teachers union, the United Teachers of Dade, supports it.
Carvalho said the district is fully cognizant of the childcare issues many families face, and also of the limitations of distance learning. The plan, he says, will make teachers more accountable for interacting with students through online platforms.
“By the way, after we closed out last school year, many teachers reached out to me and said one of the most difficult things they faced during school closing time was the fact that they missed that social interaction between teacher and student,” Carvalho said.
That feeling is mutual. Fifth grader Elias Crisanto told us he wants to go back to school.
“‘Cause I miss my teachers, I miss my friends, I miss everybody,” Elias said.