MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Summer is officially over for Miami-Dade public school students as they head back to the classroom for the first day of school.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the state’s largest school district with 334,000 students, is excited that in-person learning has returned to all public schools.READ MORE: ‘Treating Those Immigrants Like Dogs’: North Miami Mayor Sickened By Images Of Border Patrol Agents Using Whips To Corral Haitian Immigrants
Masks are mandatory inside the classroom and on school buses as well. There are only some exemptions for valid medical reasons. Students will be able to take off their masks while they’re eating, while they’re outside for recess, physical education, or switching classrooms.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Monday morning went smoothly and every student got to school on time.
Early in the morning, school bus driver Beverly King started her 30th year behind the wheel.
“We sterilized the buses, we’re ready to go. I’m glad we’re able to have the kids come back,” she said.
Carvalho said he understands some students may be anxious about returning to school.
“We understand the butterflies in your stomach and the anxiety. It’s going to be a great day,” he said.
Chela Garcia dropped off one of her kids for the start of the second grade at the Ruth K. Broad Bay Harbor K-8 Center.
“My oldest daughter who’s starting high school, well 10th grade but she hasn’t been in school for a year and a half, she compared it to having to reintegrate into society. It’s hard, it’s hard,” she said.
The day got off to an exciting start at Barbara Goleman Senior High School where Carvalho was joined by Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava to greet the students.
The superintendent also made a stop at the district’s newest school building, MAST at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus.
Olaf Kahane is a student at the school.READ MORE: ‘Such A Demonic Spirit’: 70-Year-Old Man Stabbed In Random Attack At Miramar Plaza
“It’s different, especially since everybody’s back. I got to see a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in a year and a half,” he said.
This year, in addition to masks, Miami-Dade schools will maintain a three-foot separation between student stations. Schools will also undergo heightened cleaning.
High school teacher Viviana Bermudez said she’s happy to be back in the classroom.
“It’s really nice to see all of these faces right in front of me rather than on Zoom as it was last year,” she said.
Any student who tests positive for coronavirus, or has potential exposure, will have to quarantine for ten days. Students will have access to their teacher’s lesson plan if they are sent home. Carvalho said he will meet with the health department this week to see if that time frame can be shortened.
Miami-Dade joins other districts, including Broward, with mask mandates which are in direct violation of state law which says parents have the right to make that decision for their children.
Governor Ron DeSantis is pushing back as seven Florida school districts are now defying state law.
WATCH: Superintendent Carvalho On Mask Mandate And Threats From The State
Carvalho said he expects to hear from the Florida Board of Education soon, especially after the Department of Education threatened Broward and Alachua Counties with financial penalties if they don’t drop the mask mandates.
“Look, I know this week it is possible that we may receive a message from Tallahassee with a possible declaration of consequences against our salary or position. For me, that’s a small price to pay to ensure the health and well-being of our students and teachers. So, I will wear that as a badge of honor. I do not fear the consequence. We did the right thing. We will continue to do the right thing despite any threat or possible consequence,” he said.MORE NEWS: Florida Cabinet Approves 13-Mile Extension Of Dolphin Expressway
The districts with mask mandates include Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsboro, Leon, Alachua, and Sarasota.