Robert Runcie

Superintendents Look at Possibility That Schools Might Reopen Sooner Than Anticipated

Will South Florida public schools physically reopen sooner than anticipated? The superintendents say that's a real possibility

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The pandemic numbers are improving, and so is the outlook for the physical reopening of Broward and Miami-Dade Public Schools. 

With five days of distance learning in the books now in Broward, enrollment has gone up by over 1,000 students since the first day of school. There’s no question the online learning experience is different this year, with some teachers instructing from their classrooms and the superintendent saying an improved curriculum is engaging students. 

But Superintendent Robert Runcie told the school board Tuesday it’s still no substitute for face-to-face instruction.   

“I want to open our schools as soon as possible," Runcie said, "It is enormously difficult to run a school district under these circumstances, moreover, it places a heaven burden on parents and is likely to impact the social, emotional and academic growth of children."

With COVID-19 positivity rates hovering in Broward near the 5% mark, Runcie said Labor Day will be a key checkpoint to project a reopening date. 

In Miami-Dade, positivity rates are around 9%, and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said they should be able to project a reopening date by mid-September instead of September 30, as the district was planning. So both school districts could see their schools reopen sometime in October.

“Positivity rates are down, mortality and morbidity rates are down, hospitalization rates are down and the community has vastly improved the turnaround for test results, so that obviously puts us in a position of looking at our timelines and making decisions in terms of what’s best for students and also what’s best for our employees in light of these newly improved conditions,” Carvalho said.

Carvalho added that the most fragile students, those with learning issues and handicaps, would be first in line for a return to in-person instruction. 

One thing each school district will need is federal and state money. 

“A district of our size will use approximately $10 million worth of PPE and enhanced cleaning protocols on a monthly basis once we have students back on our campuses,” Runcie said. 

Reopening the schools depends on the current downward trend in the pandemic numbers continuing and in Broward, on the county government moving to its Phase Two reopening status. 

Runcie said 329 school district employees or contractors have already tested positive for coronavirus.

“As a result of the lack of rapid testing, and the lag in receiving test results in a timely manner, even with minimal staff on campuses, we’ve had to shut down locations out of an abundance of caution for 14 days,” Runcie said, without mentioning which facilities had to be closed. 

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