MIAMI (CBSMiami) – About 22,000 Miami-Dade public school students are back in school classrooms.
Monday morning, county school buses rolled out and parents hugged their children as they dropped them off.
It was the first physical day for prekindergarten, kindergarten, first-graders and students with disabilities.
Jayden said he was glad to be back.
“I meet my friends, I ate at the cafeteria and I had a lot of fun,” said Jayden.
Jayden said he arrived to school this year not showing off his backpack but instead his mask.
He said his teacher made sure they kept them on at all times.
“Not in the cafeteria, but I did need to wear the mask all day,” said Jayden.
Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease specialist said parents need to stress CDC guidelines.
“I understand classroom spacing is three feet apart, which only works if students are wearing their facial coverings. There is a real threat but they can mitigate these threats so they can have a good experience and a safe experience,” said Dr. Marty.
Linda Fernandez, the parent of a first grade student at the Andrea Castillo Preparatory Academy, told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “I am not going to lie. I was worried. But I put my faith in God that everything is going to be OK. It went well. He needed to socialize and be with his teachers and his friends.”
Her son, 6-year-old Matias Salebe, said, “It was good. I got to say hi to all of my friends. I liked being back and I wore a mask.”
“We had every single student arrive without complications. I saw parents and students queuing up, entering schools with appropriate distancing. I saw employees revealing their thumbs up badge based on self-assessment. I saw students being picked up by their teachers and taken to the cafeteria for breakfast. And then I saw active instruction on the first day,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho who visited several schools.
On Wednesday, Oct. 7, all other elementary school students plus those in grades six, nine and 10 will return.
All other students will return on Oct. 9.
The district was set to re-open their schools at a later date, but the decision to reopen sooner came last week after the state’s education commissioner ordered schools to reopen by Oct. 5.
At the Andrea Castillo Preparatory Academy, the day was overwhelming for Miami-Dade School Board member Susie Castillo. Her daughter died in a car accident eight years ago. The school was named after her.
“I feel like she’s smiling down on us. She would have never, ever imagined this. I never imagined having a school named after her,” she said.
Carvalho said a lot of preparation went into this day.
“We are in a good place, I am appreciative of all the work that’s been done,” he said.
The superintendent said there are medically trained employees at every school, hundreds of substitute teachers on hand, and packaged food will be delivered to the classrooms to minimize contact. In some schools, students will go to the cafeteria by class and get their grab and go meals.
Carvalho added that windowless schools got new air filters over the last two days.
“We have gone above and beyond. We never promised face shields, but we have provided face shields because of a Board request if we could we would. Hand disinfectants, plenty in every single classroom, every single school,” he said.
At a news conference, Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava announced that she had helped deliver 1,000 mask to Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Karla Hernandez-Mats said there were no major problems but some minor issues were reported that could become serious.
“We know that Cutler Bay Middle School had problems with the air conditioning and we know that at Coconut Grove elementary schools the air conditioning was not working. It is important that teachers and their students go to well-ventilated areas if there are problems with air conditioning,” she said.
The UTD also received some photos of some mask-wearing parents at Southside Elementary School not practicing social distancing outside the school.
“The issues are important to address because any mishap can cause death or damage to the life and health of all teachers and students involved,” she said.
She also said there was a problem with dual modality.
“Dual modality means teachers are involved at the same time with in person instruction and also instructing kids online by using Zoom or other means. It is a violation of the agreement with schools for the reopening of schools during the pandemic,” she said. “I implore parents who have the option of keeping their kids at home to do that and be safe during this pandemic.”