Miami-Dade County

First Wave of Students Return to Miami-Dade School Classrooms Monday

Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st graders and ESE students were welcomed back to the county's public schools

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What to Know

  • More than 22,000 students returned to classrooms in Miami-Dade County on Monday
  • Pre-K, kindergarten and first grade students were the first to return under a staggered reopening plan
  • Another 40,000 students are expected to return to classrooms on Wednesday, with yet another group starting on Friday

Students returned to classrooms in Miami-Dade County on Monday for the first time since public schools shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Superintendent Alberto Carvahlo said around 22,000 students would be back on campuses at over 300 schools in the county, adding he observed teachers and students taking part in social distancing on campus.

"We were able to secure medical personnel for every school on campus, which was not a mandate," Carvahlo said at a news conference Monday morning. "All employees expressed their readiness to return to campus."

Pre-K, kindergarten, 1st graders and ESE students were the first to return Monday. The other grades will begin coming back based on a staggered schedule:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 7th: Grades 2-6 and 9-10
  • Friday, Oct. 9th: Grades 7-8 and 11-12

“When do you wear the masks? Always, that’s right,” Carvalho said to a class of kindergarteners Monday morning at Andrea Castillo K8 Preparatory School.

It was one of several schools Carvalho visited.

“Our teachers were very eager here, we talked them through what the protocols were, they were very satisfied with what the protocols were that we’re gonna follow here at school,” said Adolfo Costa, the school’s principal. 

Costa said his school was ready with COVID-prevention measures, such as the desks being spread out, signage in the hallways, everyone wearing masks, and enhanced sanitizing protocols. 

“I just witnessed in all schools I visited, custodians going by constantly wiping down handles of doors and sanitizing bathrooms,” Carvalho said. “We have not detected any issues whatsoever.”

Carvalho said the county has substitute teachers ready and accommodations would be made for students with special needs.

School officials prepared campuses for social distancing, installed air filters and arranged for school nurses and “medically trained staff" to be present at each school. Each student is expected to receive a thermometer when returning to school.

Many teachers and parents have expressed concern over the system's readiness to return to brick-and-mortar schools, including student-teacher ratios, sanitation supplies and masks. District officials say they are well prepared for students to return.

Priscilla Roche, a teacher at Shenandoah Middle School, said she's prepared but nervous.

"Well whether I’m ready or not, gonna have to be ready so I’m very nervous and scared but I’m having faith and just gonna do the best I can,” Roche said.

Roche teaches sixth grade, and she’s also a mom. Her daughter goes back to Kenwood K8 on Wednesday.

“I am nervous as a teacher, I think I’m also nervous as a mother because I cannot be there to make sure my daughter wears her mask and doesn’t hug other students,” Roche said.

This is the last weekend before public schools reopen in Miami-Dade County. Friday was a mandatory teacher planning day, so every school was a beehive of activity with staff working to get the buildings ready.

“It’s absolutely gonna be a challenge,” said Stevie Peacock, a teacher coach at Madison Middle School.

Peacock showed NBC 6 some of the preps at her school and like other teachers, she’s worried about the unknown. No one knows if the social distancing rules and other measures will be strictly enforced and followed.

“I think physically, yes, the school is ready, it’s just, there’s only so much you can do, right?” Peacock said.

The experts say the key to preventing outbreaks in schools is enforcing the rules.

“A surge is preventable based on our behavior, if we can keep people understanding how critical it is to use the mask and use them consistently and properly, we’ll escape a problem,” said Dr. Aileen Marty of FIU.

Dr. Marty says she is worried about whether the HVAC systems in older buildings are up to speed for the pandemic era. The school district says every school house will be ready with COVID-19 prevention measures before kids come back.

Some other changes that have been made include:

  • All high school schedules will revert to a 7 a.m. starting time as of Wednesday, Oct. 7th for both the Schoolhouse model and remote learners
  • Parents should receive a notification card in the mail to serve as a reminder of which model they selected; students should bring these cards with them in order to physically enter their school on their assigned return date
  • Some exceptions will be made for parents who wish to change their selection; if interested, they should reach out directly to the school

Parents are also asked to conduct a daily health screening of their children, as outlined in the District’s reopening guide, prior to sending them to school.

Monday's start date was decided by the school district after a letter was sent by Florida's Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran the week prior. In the letter, Corcoran said Miami-Dade and Broward County schools would have to reopen Oct. 5 or risk losing funding.

Originally, both counties' school boards had voted on a staggered reopening schedule that was set to start on Wednesday, Oct. 14.

NBC 6 and AP
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