MIAMI (CBSMiami) – All school districts in the state of Florida have been ordered to offer in-person instruction five days a week starting in August but not everyone is fully on board including Miami-Dade Public School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
There is a lot of concern about the reopening schools in August as coronavirus cases continue to surge in Florida, where 2.8 million students were forced into online learning almost four months ago.
“Let’s recognize one thing, Miami Dade is right now the epicenter of the epicenter in our country in terms of COVID positivity, at a time when hospitalization numbers are up, at a time when the number of patients in ICU beds are up, at a time when quite frankly, restaurants have been emptied out shuttered. It is counterintuitive to mandate students to return to school at full capacity,” said Carvalho during an interview on CNN Thursday morning.
“The White House’s own plan to Reopening America describes a Phase 1 as one that does not allow the opening of schools. We need a Phase 2 to be able to reopen school. So both the federal and the state guidance prevent that,” said Carvalho. “We are in Phase 1, should we transition to Phase 2, then we do have a plan that will bring students back to school five days a week, while offering other options to parents as well.”
That plan calls for Miami-Dade Public Schools to pivot among in-person, online and hybrid courses. The plan also calls for staggered schedules, smaller classes and mandatory masks for all.
“Both federal guidelines and state guidelines basically dictate that any county, any community that is in Phase 1, is unable to open schools. That is the federal and state guideline at this point. I think it would be counter intuitive, with positivity cases increasing with restaurants just this week being shut down again, for us to pack up schools. It does not make sense.”
Carvalho says if the county is still in Phase 1 by the start of school Aug. 24, as it is now, schooling would be held entirely online.
Monday, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran ordered public schools to reopen in August but also allows for distance learning.
Carvalho says locally elected school boards, not the state, ultimately decide whether to open or close school.
“Well, that order also provides some flexibility and leeway to the local authorities. Number one, it establishes that the first day of school can be different across the state of Florida. It limits, quite frankly, the opening on the basis of local health conditions informed by the local health department as well as the state health department.”
The school district began surveying parents Monday on their preferences of in-school learning or online distance learning.
“We are a choice district and 63% of the parents in our community at this point, have declared that they prefer a schoolhouse model of instruction, while about one third would rather a remote continuous learning opportunity like we did during the last quarter of last school year,” Carvalho said Thursday.
“I am hopeful that actually what I heard Vice President Pence say yesterday, which was, despite this, this order to reopen schools in August at full capacity, that there are some districts in the nation that will face limitations. I believe Miami Dade is facing limitations. We are at the epicenter of this of COVID-19 on the basis of hospitalizations, ICU beds, and when you’re facing that type of condition, it cannot be a one size fits all approach. We need to look at local environmental conditions prior to making these decisions. We are ready, willing and able to open once we transition to Phase 2 and that’s exactly what the state and federal guidelines have indicated all along.”
Miami-Dade Schools are giving parents an extended deadline of July 15 to vote on which of the enrollment plans they desire for their children.
To select an enrollment plan for their children, Miami-Dade Schools parents can access a short questionnaire on the Parent Portal or the Dade Schools mobile app. They can also email or print the form and deliver it directly to their child’s school.