School district discusses reopening plans

Education By Megan Jacobo, Reporter Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The school board of Miami-Dade County approved reopening plans Wednesday during a virtual meeting. Parents are offered a choice between sending their children back to school or continue learning from home in 2020 - 2021.

Classes will resume Aug. 24, though many practical decisions have yet to be made, officials said, as the public health crisis surrounding the coronavirus outbreak continues.

“The greatest challenge is unpredictability,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Wednesday. “We all hope by the time schools open things have improved and that we are in Phase 3 [of managing the virus].”

If society returns to a near normal way of life and the pandemic is better controlled, which would be called Phase 3 of reopening, the district would hope to return children to class five days a week.

But until that happens it is surveying parents about whether children should be home studying online one day, in school the next, or two to three days working online and two to three days in school.

But as things stood on July 2, the county was still in Phase 1 so all proposed plans are tentative the district said.

The board is continuing to accept comments and concerns from parents and staff.

Between July 6 and 10, parents are asked to tell authorities their preferences for how their children will be educated.
Parents may file their requests to the district through the parent portal, Dadeschools Mobile App or by calling their child's school about whether the child returns to campus or continues to learn from home.

Parents will receive an email during the week of July 27 that will confirm how their child will be educated.

Board members were discussing late Wednesday afternoon the best ways to safely reopen.

Among the decisions they made:
--Classrooms will be set up to allow for social distancing, which will limit the number of students per class.
--Gyms, cafeterias and media centers will be repurposed into classrooms.
--The board discussed whether kids would have to bring their own meals or if food would be delivered to classrooms.
--Hand-sanitizing stations will be installed in all high traffic areas in school buildings. Transparent, protective barriers may be set up, too.
--Parents will be encouraged to check their children’s temperatures at home each day before sending them to classes.
--At all times, parents, teachers and staff will be required to wear face coverings.
--The online learning program will follow the regular bell schedule of the school a child is enrolled in.

Something that may be a concern for parents of very young children: Distance learning is not approved for those enrolled in Voluntary PreKindergarten or Head Start/Early Head Start programs.

Parents have said they want consistent schedules for their children, officials said.

Parents and staff urged the district to allow PreKindergarten students and younger children to continue classes online, because they feel distance learning is safer than risking exposure to the coronavirus, especially at a time when cases of COVID-19 are rising in the county.

The reopening plan was unanimously approved by the school board, District Chair Perla Tabares Hantman said in an email Thursday.

"I am proud that we continue to keep parent choice at the center of all we do and provide options for those who wish to keep their children home," she said.

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