By Eliott Rodriguez

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — When Miami-Dade County public school students return to the classroom on Monday, August 23, it’ll be the first time many of them experience in person learning since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While there has been a lot of debate over mask mandates, educators say the real issue will be getting those students back up to speed after a year of challenges.

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Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho took a walk-through Hialeah Gardens Elementary on Friday, stopping by a classroom where second grade teacher Maria Marrero said she’s eager to see students again face to face.

“I think they need it; they need the social, they need the interaction not every student can learn through the internet, they need the normalcy,” said Marrero.

Carvalho said that normalcy will be top of mind when students return to the classroom.

“That’s my biggest concern and biggest challenge, rapidly accelerate every single child toward their academic potential eliminating the learning loss they suffered during social isolation,” said the superintendent.

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Carvalho also stopped by the cafeteria where students will be socially distanced.

Signs will be everywhere reminding them that face masks are required indoors and each school will have a medical observation room staffed by at least one health care professional.

“The presence of a health professional in every single school that means a nurse, an EMT will be in every single school who will monitor every school to make sure if there is a contact it will be monitored by a professional.”

After weeks of debating mask mandates, Carvalho hopes the focus will now shift to the educational needs of the nation’s fourth largest school district.

“Now it’s time for us to reunify on single focal point and that is the well-being and educational needs of every single child in our community,” he said.

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Carvalho said the district has 80 new initiatives that include tutoring, mental health counseling, support for the arts and magnet programs.

Eliott Rodriguez