It feels like Miami-Dade County Public Schools has been riding a playground seesaw.
The district’s original plan was to begin reopening schools on October 5th, then the School Board pushed that back to October 14th, but then Florida’s commissioner of education demanded that schools reopen on October 5th or face tens of millions of dollars in funding cuts, possibly as much as $300 million.
So on Tuesday, the Board yielded to the pressure from the state and voted unanimously to reopen schools on October 5th, next Monday.
On that day, pre-K, Kindergarten, first graders, and students with disabilities will be invited back if their parents chose that option. On the following Wednesday, grades 6, 9, 10 and all other elementary grades can come back, and on the 9th, all other grades can choose to come back to school or stay home and continue distance learning.
“We had to strike a balance that number one, safeguards the health, well-being of children, our employees, protects our funding and at the same time provides for continuity of effective teaching and learning for our students,” said superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “Let’s have a degree of patience, this is like restarting the school year yet again.”
So, now school administrators, parents and teachers are scrambling to get ready.
David Buncher has been teaching for 40 years. He was in his classroom today, and says it’s ready to go and so is he.
“Everybody, all the teachers want their students back, and we want to see them and make sure it’s safe. I feel comfortable that it’s gonna be safe in this school and I do feel comfortable that this will be the new normal that I’m gonna get used to,” Buncher said.
Through his cellphone, Buncher showed us how desks have been arranged for social distancing. Hand sanitizer is in place and signage has been posted. He says he’s comforted by hearing that mandatory facial covering rules will be strictly enforced.
However, many teachers are feeling threatened by the situation. One teacher said she’s applying for a leave of absence. Another said that she’s afraid of bringing corona virus home to her family.
Parents, too, are evaluating their options.
“I’m choosing to keep my son at home because we have a 98-year-old grandmother that lives with us and I just can’t risk him bringing something home,” said Shelley Gonzalez.
She has a son in second grade at Kenwood K8 and says he’s doing well with distance learning. Meanwhile, her brother, Christopher Fischer, is sending his 6th grader back to Glades Middle School.
“My wife and I decided to send him back to school for a couple of reasons, one, the social aspect, we wanted him to interact with his friends and all of that, but more importantly, because keeping him home means one of us has to accommodate for that and be home, and luckily both of our employers have been very flexible for now but we don’t know how long that’s gonna last,” Fischer said.
“I do respect that although virtual works for us, I know there are a lot of parents who have to work and virtual has been extremely hard on them,” Gonzalez said.
Meanwhile, Broward County Public Schools is feeling the same pressure from the state, with education commissioner Richard Corcoran telling the district the reopening plan already approved by his agency is now, suddenly, no longer approved.
The district is planning to reopen in stages beginning on October 14th, to coincide with the beginning of the second marking period. But Corcoran is demanding an October 5th reopening, so the School Board is holding an emergency meeting Thursday morning to deal with this developing situation.
Parents should keep an eye on this because there’s obviously a possibility that Broward Schools might reopen sooner than planned, just like their neighbors in Miami-Dade.