MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has ordered the emergency closure of all public schools beginning March 16 due to coronavirus concerns. Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie followed suit, ordering the shutdown in that county where eleven cases of coronavirus have already been confirmed.
“It is our moral and legal obligation to protect our community including our most fragile, therefore I am declaring an emergency closure for all schools for the week beginning March 16,” said Carvalho who runs one of the largest school districts in the country.
The decision was made one day after a person who works aftercare services in the Town of Bay Harbor Island tested positive for coronavirus, leading to the emergency shutdown of Ruth K. Broad/Bay Harbor K-8 Center.
The Miami-Dade School shutdown was only ordered for one week because students will be on Spring Break the week of March 23rd.
“The decision to close our schools is not one that we take lightly; as we know when kids are not in school, our community is directly impacted,” said Carvalho. “There is a significant difference between preparing for a hurricane and preparing for the potential impact of the coronavirus. Hurricanes typically follow a track; COVID-19 is unconventional and unpredictable. We don’t know the time, place or people it will touch. We strive to make decisions that are in the best interest of students, families, and employees. The well-being of our students and staff must be valued above all.”
A support hotline was established for teachers, students, and parents seeking assistance with distance learning. The number for the hotline is 305-995-HELP. It will be active until 8 p.m. tonight, from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. Saturday and resume operations from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. next week.
In addition to public schools closing, so will Miami-Dade charter schools managed by Academica and starting Tuesday, all Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Miami. The archdiocese also suspended religious education programs and canceled or postponed retreats and other parish activities “in an effort to increase ‘social distancing’ in order to mitigate exposure,” a news release said.
Carvalho says the school district is working to make sure all students have mobile devices so they can continue online learning. All students who need resources will receive them.
“Early this morning, the District began device distribution to families who indicated they do not have a mobile device at home. Distribution will continue at all schools until 7:30 p.m. tonight; except in the case of Ruth K. Broad/Bay Harbor K-8 Center, where an alternate site will be made available. M-DCPS will resume device distribution on Saturday, and specific device pick-up times will be communicated directly to parents via automated messaging,” said Carvalho.
Activities scheduled at schools, including Saturday Academy and facility rentals, will operate as scheduled over the weekend. The SAT administration scheduled for Saturday, March 14, 2020, will proceed as planned.
Beginning Monday, families in need of Internet connectivity may obtain service for 60 days, free of charge, from Comcast. Information about this service will be provided on http://distancelearning.dadeschools.net.
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With Spring Break approaching, Carvalho strongly recommended “you refrain from traveling to areas currently at Level 3 or Level 2, and defer from cruise ship travel. Should employees choose to travel against these advisories, they must heed the related guidance provided by the CDC regarding self-isolation protocols.”
If employees are feeling stressed out and need mental wellness support, they can contact the Emergency Assistance Program at 305-995-7111. This service will be provided from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday.
During the two week break, all schools will receive a thorough and deep sanitization of schools.
School sites scheduled to serve as polling sites for Election Day on Tuesday, March 17 will be open to the general public for voting as planned.
Carvalho also stressed that the “District is aware that food insecurity is a serious concern in our community. M-DCPS provides free breakfast for all students and free or reduced-price lunch to more than 73 percent of students. With the support of local community partners, M-DCPS is fully prepared to implement a community feeding plan to provide meals for students and families. All schools will be providing hot grab-and-go meals for both breakfast and lunch between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday of next week.”
“In an effort to support vital health services in South Florida, M-DCPS is working with partners to assist with the provision of childcare for employees of Jackson Health System near all of its medical centers.”
If you have any questions, call the District’s Emergency Operations hotline at 305-995-3000. The latest updates will also be posted at http://covid19.dadeschools.net.
In Broward, while students will be out, school operations will remain open. Runcie announced that all schools would be closed to students next week. He said the system would also continue to feed students.