Miami-Dade Public Schools Officials Discuss Reopening Safety

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The reopening of Miami-Dade County Public Schools is within sight, now that the eight gating criteria established by the district are being met. 

In plain English, that means the pandemic statistics are waning enough that  reopening the schools can be done safely. The superintendent has said an early October restart date is on the horizon. That was the backdrop for Thursday afternoon’s meeting of the district’s reopening task force.

The health experts in the group approved of the district’s plans for HVAC upgrades, sanitizing protocols, social distancing measures, mandatory facial coverings, and other measures at every school. 

“I know that the superintendent is doing everything he can to make this work," said task force member Dr. Aileen Marty of FIU, an infectious disease expert. "I also know there are humongous challenges in order to get to where we truly need to be to make it work."

Thursday's meeting kept returning to one critical issue: contact tracing. 

“The swifter returns of test results is critically important, that is why the collaboration with the health department’s contact tracing through their investigators is so critically important,” said superintendent Alberto Carvalho. 

“Those kind of things have to be implemented in order to make it work and this contact tracing thing, if we don’t have that fixed, it’s a no go,” Marty said. “It can get out of hand very quickly if we don’t have very rapid contact tracing.”

Marty is nervous because she says the public has done a poor job overall, often ignoring contact tracers when they call. 

Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Miami’s catholic schools, which serve 30,000 students, are reopening for face-to-face instruction starting next Wednesday, following CDC guidelines for COVID prevention in all of its schools. 

“This is going to require a bit of adaptation because we’re not returning to normal,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski. 

The Archbishop emphasized the need for everyone to follow the rules of wearing masks and social distancing to prevent as much of the spread of the virus as possible. 

“It cannot be overstated, the social responsibility required of students and families to return to school,” Carvalho said, pointing out that there will be many new rules to which everyone must adhere to make the reopening of schools successful, whether they are public or parochial. 

What will the standards be in each school? The recommendations of the task force will be presented to the school board on Monday for approval. The board will also decide on an opening day, which may or may not be Oct. 5, the day Broward Schools is targeting its restart. 

Don’t expect all desks to be six feet apart. Marty says the World Health Organization standard of one meter of distancing, about three feet, is sufficient to prevent COVID transmission as long as everyone is wearing a mask. 

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