#schoolsafety | Miami-Dade School Board meets to discuss timeline for physical reopening

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The Miami-Dade School Board is meeting Monday to discuss the timeline for when students should return to the classroom.

Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho said he is recommending a staggered approach to returning to school, beginning Sept. 30 with grades Pre-K through First grade.

Students in grades two through six would return Oct. 5, as well as grades ninth and 10th. Students in grades Seven and Eighth would return Oct. 7, along with students in grades 11th and 12th.

At the beginning of the meeting, the secretary announced that more than 700 speakers signed up to voice their thoughts, equaling a whopping 18 1/2 hours. A total of 662 of those speakers are parents of Miami-Dade students.

The meeting comes less than a week after the presidents of the teachers unions in Miami-Dade and Broward voiced their concerns about returning to face-to-face instruction.

“Lives are going to be lost,” United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernández-Mats said during Wednesday’s news conference. “They are going to crowd kids in a classroom.”

The unions accused Gov. Ron DeSantis and Richard Corcoran, the state’s commissioner of education, of threatening to take away funding from districts to pressure the reopening of classrooms in October when funding is considered.

“The decision to commence face-to-face instruction needs to be made based on science and the best medical data available. We have always said that. We are teachers: We believe in science; we believe in data — not on partisan politics or short-term economic factors,” Hernández-Mats said.

The Florida Department of Education determines how much funding the district receives by conducting surveys on Oct. 5-9 and Feb. 8-12. The district’s decision to reopen without a clear safety plan and time to train and prepare is based on the link between funding and student population, Hernández-Mats said.

But according to Miami-Dade School District officials, no matter when schools reopen, a July 6 executive order guaranteed funding for the fall semester.

Fusco said the rush to get funding is pushing the districts to reopen classrooms without following the proper safety guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The union leaders said the parameters requested are within the American Federation of Teachers’ blueprint.

Fusco said one important question to the district has gone unanswered: “What will you do when the deaths start happening?”

Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Public Schools, said in a statement last week that the district is following national and state health guidance to ensure that schools are sanitized and well maintained.

“The wellbeing of our students and our workforce is always at the forefront of our actions,” Gonzalez-Diego wrote. “Our approach to the reopening of schools is based on science and is informed by what is happening at the local level.”

On Friday, the School Board met with a medical task force about Miami-Dade’s positivity rate, as well as safety precautions that will be in effect once children return to school.

“I think that it would be wise for, again for the families that choose to stay home and have their children do online, that choice is theirs and we respect it fully and completely,” School Board Member Mari Tere Rojas said. “And for those families that want their children brick to mortar, back to school, face-to-face, I think it has been addressed here that the steps necessary have been taken.”

Hernandez-Mats said teachers want to make sure that all measures are being taken to ensure that children and staff members stay safe.

“Let’s do it, but let’s do it properly,” she told Local 10 News. “Let’s have 6 feet of social distancing, let’s have small class sizes, let’s make sure that the proper PPE and ventilation are in every single one of those rooms.”

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