Roughly 350,000 students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools are feeling the trepidation mixed with excitement as the first day of school approaches Monday.
Teachers are busy preparing their classrooms for the coming onslaught. For the first time since the pandemic began, they will have full classrooms.
“Obviously it’s better for us to be teaching them here in person versus the virtual,” said Muriel Fernandez, who teaches third grade at Hialeah Gardens Elementary School.
“I’m excited, I’m excited to start, to have the kids in the classroom, I’m excited to teach,” said Maria Marerro, who teaches second grade at the school.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said there’s nothing left to be said about the district’s mask mandate for students and teachers.
“So we are pivoting away from what has been a distracting conversation about protocols now to a focus on teaching and learning,” Carvalho said in a news conference at Hialeah Gardens Elementary.
He said the biggest concern is getting kids back up to speed after the COVID slide of learning losses.
“And the biggest challenge is to rapidly and effectively accelerate every single child toward their academic potential,” Carvalho said.
The academic journey is just beginning for Gus Sanchez’s twin girls, going into pre-kindergarten.
“I feel like my kids are gonna be safe at school wearing masks, and everybody wears masks so yeah, I’m OK with it, we’re comfortable,” Sanchez said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them back,” said Maria Galindo, a second grade teacher, about her students. “I know that we’re gonna keep them safe and we’re gonna work very hard for them to be able to enjoy learning in a safe environment.”
She and every other teacher we spoke to told us they feel better knowing all students will be masking up.
“Have the teachers masked, have the students masked, and it’s gonna be a very exciting year so that the students can get back to working with all the equipment like our robots and drones,” said David Buncher, who teaches science and robotics at iPrep Academy North.
“The teachers feel more confident and the students I know will feel more safe, we’re ready!” exclaimed Tanisha Cidel, who teaches drama at Norland Middle School.
The entire staff of teachers in the district will be engaged in the battle to accelerate students to the levels at which they need to be. It will be done with extra attention being paid to kids who showed learning deficits last year, tutoring programs being made available before and after school, and Saturday school sessions for additional instruction.