Public schools in Broward and Miami-Dade County reopened six weeks ago. About 45% of Miami-Dade students and 25% in Broward are currently learning in the classrooms, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he would not allow entire school districts to shut down again.
The superintendents know that, of course, but seem to be keeping that option open regardless of the governor’s edicts.
“I think it is fair to say that the best decisions regarding the safety, well-being and health of our local community, the decisions need to be made at the local level, well-informed by medical experts, and that is our intent,” said Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
The Covid-19 positivity rate is just under 8% in South Florida, much higher than the benchmark used to reopen the schools, which was 5%.
“I’m very concerned about the rise in the numbers, the positivity rate,” said Robert Runcie, superintendent of Broward County Public Schools. “But in terms of shutting down the whole entire county, I don’t believe we’re at a point where we need to consider it at this moment, but that may change as we continue to move forward.”
Each district is planning to consult with its respective Covid-19 pandemic task force of health experts this week as they seek guidance on how to proceed.
One factor which supports keeping schools open is that each district has reported more than 400 coronavirus cases among students and staff, but the superintendents say kids and teachers probably are not catching it on campus.
“We cannot trace a single infection at this point to a school or to a work place,” Carvalho said.
“I see no significant indicators that say our schools themselves are significant transmission points for the virus,” Runcie added.
Each superintendent is concerned that community spread, especially with Thanksgiving coming up, will force them to make decisions they don’t want to make.
“That is my biggest concern, that social behaviors outside of school, the lack of social distancing, the lack of wearing masks, and people relaxing their behaviors, letting down their guard, may pose the biggest threat to our public school system,” Carvalho said.