By Karli Barnett

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – While you’re busy doing back to school shopping and getting your kids ready for their first days back in class, teachers and administrators are preparing too.

On Wednesday, hundreds of new Miami-Dade teachers met for an orientation. Approximately 300 teachers packed the auditorium at Jackson Senior High Wednesday morning.

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“I am addressing you today because you are the new torch-bearers in our community. You are those who will go into dark places and brighten the lives, the outcomes, the dreams, the ideas, the aspirations of thousands of kids right here in Miami-Dade,” said Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

Some in the crowd were new to Miami-Dade Schools, others new to teaching altogether.

“I just retired from the Navy and I wanted to make a difference in the community so I figured what better way than to teach young students at the reserve officers training program,” said Kevin Follett who will be teaching at Dr. Michael Krop Senior High.

Whether they were new to the district or new to the field, all want to impact South Florida students as they walk through the doors on August 19th.

“Having that opportunity to build a connection from day one and then building on it throughout the year, and hopefully make it a lifelong connection, that’s my major goal,” said Kristy Perez who will teach at Miami South Ridge Senior High.

School Board leaders said there’s a lot to look forward to as they announced 85 new education programs and enhancements. They call them Millennial Access Platforms or MAPS.

Carvahlo said these bold initiatives will improve student learning by giving them more choices for involvement.

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“In addition to new music programs and investments in musical instruments, new robotics programs across the district, new coding and computer science enhancements,” he said.

But along with academics they are focused on safety and well-being.

“One of the new innovations we are launching this year is real-time GPS communication with parents from school buses. So parents will be able to track exactly their child’s bus location,” said Carvalho.

“We are going to have 10 new mental health professionals this year. That’s on top of the 30 we hired last year. It’s part of our brand new mental health department,” added.

Educators are preparing to provide Miami-Dade students with the resources and skills they need to advance as they enter the new year.

Some of those other initiatives include installing solar panels on all school buildings. That is in the planning phase.
There’s a new senior peer mentoring program.

An app will also be available to track their child’s eligibility for gifted special education services and gifted programs.

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Karli Barnett