Think of it as a big pep rally to get principals, teachers, and other staffers at Miami-Dade County Public Schools fired up for the coming school year.
The annual opening of schools event was held Friday morning at Miami Senior High School. Musical groups from several high schools provided the entertainment, while the superintendent plays the role of motivational speaker to an audience of educators.
“I know we will continue doing what we do best, we will continue to support you so that you are empowered to provide students with the support they need to obtain that world-class education we promised them,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, speaking on the stage in front of a changing display of graphics.
Carvalho touted the 31 new choice and magnet programs, new investments in educational resources, the district’s academic performance in relation to other urban districts, its 91% graduation rate, that fact that it has no F or even D-rated schools, and more. But with the COVID-19 surge hanging over everything, he addressed the elephant in the room first by urging everyone 12 and over to get vaccinated.
Schools and COVID
“Enough insanity about this, continue to educate those around you about this small but important gesture, getting the vaccine,” the superintendent said.
He reiterated his position that COVID safety protocols for MDCPS, including mandatory masking, will be decided by medical experts, not politicians in Tallahassee, regardless of the defunding threats made by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education.
“These masks are not a symbol of anything other than prevention and protection, to politicize this is frankly hitting a new low,” Carvalho said at a news conference after his speech. “If it ultimately means my job, that is fine, too, either you stand for something this important or you stand for nothing, and that’s my position.”
Last school year, masks were mandatory, a position supported then by DeSantis, and schools were successful in preventing campuses from becoming COVID-spreader environments.
“The difference between the position this year and last year is that we are inching closer to elections, that is all, and that is a sad state of affairs and children should not be pawns in this political chess game,” Carvalho said.
His remarks will no doubt raise eyebrows in Tallahassee, but the governor’s office admitted Thursday that it doesn’t have the authority to follow through on its threats to withhold salary from school board members and superintendents if they vote to require masks for everyone.
DeSantis has said repeatedly that only parents should decide whether their kids have to wear masks in school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics have each said masks should be mandatory in schools.
MDCPS will issue its mask policy after its advisory panel of medical and public health experts meets on Monday.