Miami-Dade Schools Introduce More Than 70 New Initiatives As New School Year Looms

If there's one thing we've learned about our local school districts, it's that over the past few years, Broward and Miami-Dade constantly seem to be rolling out new programs to provide more choices to parents and students.

Fueled by $160 million in private grants and corporate gifts, more than 70 new initiatives are set for the coming school year, Miami-Dade Public Schools announced.

"The aggressive expansion of choice, 77 new choice programs, magnet schools, as well as extra-curricular enhancements throughout the community," said superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

There's more emphasis on STEM classes district-wide. Twenty-seven schools are getting programmable robots for their third-grade classes. Thanks to a partnership with Sprint, 15,000 disadvantaged ninth graders will get free, take-home smart phones.

New magnet programs are being added to some schools, whole others are being expanded.

Barbara Goleman Senior High, for example, is being transformed into a "super magnet", hoping to replicate the success of Coral Reef High School. The district is also expanding its telemedicine clinics to 62 schools.

Some school board members questioned Carvalho, asking if the new resources were being strategically placed to compete with charter schools in their districts.

"We have the most charter competition and the brain drain is substantial," said Board Member Dr. Marta Perez, speaking about losing students to charter schools.

"If you look carefully at many of the offerings," Carvalho responded, "they're being deployed exactly to address that."

Safety is also on the agenda. Responding to the death of a young boy from opioid exposure, they're going to train kids to recognize the dangers.

"These are about the do's and don'ts, not just about saying no, but doing more through the outcomes of prevention and intervention through education," explained Miami-Dade Schools police chief Ian Moffet.

"Values Matter" is one of the district's slogans, and after the racist demonstration in Virginia, Carvalho says teachers will be discussing it during the first week of school.

"We ought not be silent about this matter nationally, we ought not be silent about this matter with our children," Carvalho said.

Asked if this policy was driven by the stance taken by President Donald Trump after the Charlottesville incidents, Carvalho said, "I think it's driven by a number of things, certainly conversation from the very top but also an echo that legitimizes the insanity, the violence."

There's much to discuss, much ground to cover in the new school year.

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