By Joan Murray

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The reopening of schools and the return of in-person instruction is a primary goal of the Broward School Board and Superintendent Robert Runcie.

However, they both note that the return can’t be rushed.

During a news conference Tuesday morning, Runcie said the best case scenario would be sometime in October for “partial in-person face to face learning for students whose parents choose to send them back to school.”

Since the beginning of the new school year, about three weeks ago, students have had virtual online instruction. Teachers have the option of either teaching from their homes or in the classroom.

The district did have a couple of hiccups in the beginning but things were straightened out and it has gone pretty smoothly.

On Tuesday, Runcie said with the COVID positivity rate in the county trending down, he’s hopeful could see the return of in-person education next month.

“If the current trends continue, and we can maintain them, and we can continue on this path of improvement, we will be in a position to reopen schools and be able to open them in a phased approach that can occur as early as sometime in October,” he said.

“But regarding the decision on when and how we’re going to reopen, we will have to have an important conversation with our School Board to make that determination. So we have scheduled an urgent meeting with our School Board for a workshop on Tuesday, September 22nd to discuss our plans, our strategy, and timing for reopening our schools, and our campuses, for hybrid and full time learning five days a week again,” he added.

Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco has been told a nurse will be in every school. But she doesn’t believe the district can afford acrylic sheets or guards for every single desk, since the district has 270,000 students.

“I haven’t gotten word yet if our school system is going to be hiring more custodial staff to have a larger presence,” Fusco said.

She admits on top of giving lessons, teachers must work to prevent the spread, especially among younger kids.

“Your mask might slip. The coughing and sneezing and the touching. It’s human nature,” she said.

At the September 22nd workshop, board members will also discuss exactly what the parameters are going to be for children whose parents decide that they can go back to school for in-person learning. This will be an option for parents, it’s not going to be mandatory.

Students will still have the option of working full time from home or doing a combination of in school and at home.

The leader believes if roughly 90,000 students stay home, that means most schools can offer in-person learning 5 days a week with current social distancing guidelines.

“There are some schools where that will not be possible,” he said.

So for those schools, they may have no other choice but to offer a hybrid model. A few days at school and others at home.

The superintendent says most teachers are already back inside classrooms, even though they’re teaching online.

“That number has continued to grow as we move forward. We are encouraged by that development,” he said.

While Broward families say the virtual learning program is vastly improved from last March when schools closed abruptly because of the pandemic, it isn’t ideal.

Being in front of a computer six to eight hours a day has been a challenge for 8th grader Kaylee Stedman.

“It’s staring at a screen all day. Isn’t good for me. I prefer to be in class with a teacher and better interacting with students,” she says.

“We have WiFi issues. She’s been kicked off the computer and had to complete her assignments elsewhere,” said her mother, Melanie Stedman.

Stedman says with the right safety measures in place for students and teachers, she would welcome a return to the classroom in October.

“I’m definitely ready for kids to get back to a normal life,” she says.

So far, Broward has a two-week average positivity rate at 4.46%. For Miami-Dade, it’s 6.57%.

Miami-Dade District leaders there are also eyeing a possible October opening. City of Miami is asking the county to lift the curfew well before that happens.  But the White House COVID-19 Task Force says to wait.

“I asked Mayor Gimenez to do. They’ve asked us to have a week worth of data that there wasn’t a spike after the long weekend,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said Tuesday.