Officials at all levels, school administrators, teachers, parents, and yes, students, are looking at when Miami-Dade schools would normally start August 24, 2020. Miami-Dade County’s plan is to use a, “A Comprehensive, Informed Approach”, as work groups have been convened and intense discussions have taken place. The following is posted to the website, “Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) is committed to making the soundest decisions regarding our reopening, and we strongly believe in making those decisions based on science. Our approach is comprehensive in nature and it is informed by what we see happening internationally as well as by national guidance, state guidance, and local decisions.
M-DCPS strives to safely return students to the physical schoolhouse, but we recognize that doing so will not be possible while Miami-Dade County remains in Phase 1 of The Plan for Florida's Recovery. The M-DCPS 2020 – 2021 proposed plan assumes schools will reopen once Miami-Dade County is in Phase 2. The plan is built to ensure the District can rapidly pivot, if necessary, in response to a shift back to Phase 1 or to a broader reopening under a transition to Phase 3.
This website is designed to inform parents and employees of the plans for reopening our school campuses. On this site, you can view the guiding documents that we considered in creating our reopening plan and familiarize yourself with the options for returning to school.” http://reopening.dadeschools.net/
Links are provided to four documents of: Center for Disease Control (CDC) Guidelines, Florida Governor Guidelines, Florida Department of Education Guidelines, and Pediatrics Guidelines. Reopening workgroups were held Monday June 22 and Friday 26, 2020 and a virtual Special Board Meeting was held Wednesday, July 1, 2020. It was live streamed and broadcast on Channel 17, WLRN to allow more public access. There had been a provision for public comments to be submitted and public comments made. In the lengthy meeting, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho presented a 61-page Powerpoint presentation of the tentative plan for the 2020-2021 school year. The entire presentation and the board meeting can be viewed on the website. The four guiding principles cited were: “Ensure the safety and wellness of students and staff; Deliver high-quality instruction to students, regardless of delivery model; Provide parents flexibility and choice in instructional delivery models; Optimize use of resources.”
More than 100,000 parental preference responses were included in the analysis broken into grade levels, P-2d; 3-5; 6-8; and 9-12. [Slide #38] In essence, approximately 30% wanted only distance learning with 31-37% for in-person, and up to 41% for a combination. [July 15, 2020 was the final day for Schooling Preference submission.]
A Public Health and Medical Experts meeting was subsequently held Tuesday, July 14th, 2020 and that video can also be seen on the website.
Another special School Board meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, July 29, 2020. Jackie Calzadilla, Director of Media Relations, M-DCPS provided the following statement for the district, “Miami-Dade County Public Schools is committed to making the soundest decisions regarding our reopening and strongly believes in making those decisions based on science.
Recognizing that Miami-Dade is at the epicenter of the pandemic, our reopening approach, which adheres to national and state health guidance, is comprehensive in nature and is informed by what is happening at the local level.”
In Monroe County, their School Board met Tuesday, July 28, 2020 and provided a press release of the decision for schools to initially maintain a virtual environment. "Our concern for the safety of our students and our staff, along with advice from the health department, have led us to this decision," said Theresa Axford, incoming Superintendent. "The community spread of the virus in the South Florida area is definitely concerning. We know this will not be an optimal learning environment, but in our planning process we have introduced considerable improvements over last year's efforts.”
“The start date for school is not yet firm - it will be either the 13th or the 17th. Negotiations with United Teachers of Monroe are currently going forward and this is one of the issues being discussed. There will be a re-evaluation of the virtual teaching plan the week of September 7th. At that time, the district will consult with the health department about the levels of community spread and determine whether a return to the physical classroom can be done safely.”
Leadership and teams focused on necessities such as safe ways to feed students continue to work together. Guidelines and other information being used as sources are available at their website of (https://www.keysschools.com); MCSD COVID-19 Response. They have also established a blog mymcsd-fl.blogspot.com and have additional social media platforms of Facebook @mymcsd; on Twitter @keysschools; on Instagram at mymcsd.
"All of our leadership teams have been working so hard, I just want everyone to realize that this is not an easy process," said Axford. "On top of it all, we have been fielding questions and trying to reassure nervous parents even though we don't have all the answers they may want to hear."
Elementary school students will use computers to be in a virtual classroom with an assigned teacher and able to see their classmates. The approved on-line learning platform will allow for working with in-class assignments and interaction with classroom aides, called para-professionals, who can help with various tasks like reading and math.
Middle and high school students will have options of the virtual class live or access the recorded video at another time. They will also have live on-line time with each of their teachers; time which can include meetings with the teacher and smaller groups of students.
"The scheduling for all of this is a monumental task for our teachers and administrators," said Axford. "We saw, during last spring's on-line learning process, that we really need for students to see and have time with their teachers and that is what we are trying to do here. When you attend class in a classroom, in person, there is a bonding process between teacher and student, and between the students themselves. We are trying to spark some of this bonding even though we will not all be in the same building, or the same room."
In the matter of schools physically re-opening, both counties are working measures for mask wearing, social distancing, additional, continuing cleaning with adequate sanitation supplies, signage, floor markings, cafeteria operations, and transportation. Both counties also stress that whatever option/options are selected, the situation may change to cause adaptation to the methods and procedures.