‘We Are Beyond Ready': Fort Lauderdale School Prepares for Students' Return Friday

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They’ve been counting down the days and now it’s here: kids are coming back to Broward County Public Schools Friday.

“It’s a rollercoaster of emotions. I’m always nervous, but I’m excited to see them,” said second grade teacher Nicole Ferraro. 

Her colleague across the hall at Harbordale Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, Noel Morgado-Santos, said, “I believe that we are beyond ready.”

“I am excited, I’m ready to get the kids back in here,” said Mike Dinwiddie, who teaches fifth grade at Harbordale. 

The school, like every school in the district, was buzzing with activity on Thursday's mandatory teacher planning day. The staff is getting ready for the Pre-K through second-graders to be at school Friday morning. Slightly more than half of Harbordale’s 465 students is expected to be sitting in the socially distant desks. 

“I am excited about the students returning to us," said principal Theresa Bucolo. "We’ve missed the electric and the vibrance, just the energy that they bring to school."

On Friday, Broward County Public Schools welcomes Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade students to the schoolhouse for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close. NBC 6's Ari Odzer reports.

Everything is simultaneously familiar yet totally different for teachers because, of course, they set up their classrooms every year, but this time they’re sailing into uncharted waters.

“What was the word that was used by our school counselor, navigating a new change, and it definitely is, it’s navigating a new change but I know that we’re ready,” Ferraro said. 

The school made a video showing the new procedures and COVID-prevention measures. They made it for parents but also to help reassure anxious teachers and staff members. 

“Yeah I would have to say I’m a little nervous about having them here, but we are taking every precaution available," Dinwiddle said. "We have signs everywhere, we have sanitation stations, we have desks six feet apart. It’s an exciting and scary thing, so it’s gonna be an interesting week, we’ll see how it goes.”

NBC 6's Ari Odzer has reaction from Superintendent Alberto Carvalho as the staggered start to the year begins earlier than planned.

“Anything that we need to do we will do to make it a safe environment and a happy environment for them to come back to work and for the students to be back in school,” Bucolo said. 

For example, we saw a classroom set up to hold a maximum of 15 students with social distancing, but what happens later in the school year if more parents decide to send their kids back to school? That’s a bridge they’re going to have to cross eventually. 

“Well we will insure that there is social distancing no matter what, but we’ll have to be creative," Bucolo said. "Perhaps we’ll have to go to different kinds of schedules, we’ll have to utilize the other areas we’re not using right now, but we’ll make it happen."

As schools reopen, there will be plenty of room for social distancing at every grade level. So far, only 20% of Broward Public Schools students have opted to return to the classroom. Expect that number to rise if things go smoothly over the next few weeks.

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