The Miami-Dade School Board held its first in-person meeting today since its schools reopened, with the status of the reopening experiment looming over everything.
The board knows that bringing students and teachers to school buildings during a pandemic is unprecedented. So, how is it going so far? Board member Dr. Martin Karp told us he has received very little negative feedback from parents and teachers.
"I don’t know if that would change should the numbers increase, but at this time the people seem to have settled in with the choices that they’ve made, whether it’s to remain online at home or brick and mortar," Karp said via Zoom before his last school board meeting.
He is retiring after serving 16 years on the board.
At 5 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, the school district’s COVID-19 Dashboard showed 58 employees and 47 students had tested positive since schools reopened. It counts only those students who are physically attending school.
"The dashboard is populated only after a confirmation from the department of health," explained superintendent Alberto Carvalho in a news conference before the meeting.
So far, COVID-19 outbreaks have forced the district to close two schools, each for one day. Yesterday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said schools should remain open regardless of pandemic conditions and he said they should not have been closed back in March.
"Whatever the future may hold, school closures should be off the table, they don’t do anything to mitigate Covid but they do cause catastrophic damage to the physical, mental, and social well-being of our youth," DeSantis said.
"I also recall the governor saying months ago that this was an issue that local entities should have decision-making power over," Carvalho said today in response to the governor. "And decisions we continue to make are those decisions driven by science, local health data, and the best interests of our employees and students."
“No one wants to close schools just to close schools but then again no one wants to see that any of the people going to our schools are put at risk unnecessarily,” Karp said. “Closing schools in March was the right thing to do.”
Carvalho acknowledged there has been confusion in the public about the district’s Dashboard. He explained that for a myriad of reasons, mostly having to do with the district’s vetting process for contact tracing, the Dashboard numbers sometimes do not sync up with the Department of Health’s numbers on its website.
But, Carvalho asked parents to trust that the district will always contact everyone who needs to know when someone at a school tests positive for the virus.
Carvalho also said the district has received 7,200 rapid coronavirus test kits from the state. The district is now in the process of determining how to distribute them and the protocols for using them.