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The South Florida Roundup

Summer Programming In Schools, Some Pandemic Practices Stick Around And Juneteenth Becomes Federal Holiday

A girl paints on a poster celebrating Juneteenth in downtown Jackson, Miss., on June 19, 2020. Congress has voted to make the day a federal holiday.
A girl paints on a poster celebrating Juneteenth in downtown Jackson, Miss., on June 19, 2020. Congress has voted to make the day a federal holiday.

South Florida Schools are officially out for the summer. Monroe County wrapped up the year May 28, Miami-Dade and Broward ended the academic year last week and June 18 marked the last day of school in Palm Beach County.

It was a challenging year for students, educators and their families as they navigated schooling during a pandemic.

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Summer school this year will be the busiest many school districts have ever experienced, as they try to prepare students for the return to in-person learning this fall.

In Palm Beach County the school district’s summer programming begins June 28. Palm Beach Post education reporter Andrew Marra said more than 13,000 students would be attending summer school in the district this year.

“It’s largely by choice, the district was strongly suggesting kids who are behind do attend,” Marra said.

In an effort to get as many students as needed caught up in time for the fall, Marra said the district is using a “all hands on deck approach,” with more schools than usually offering summer programming.

“And there are lots of teachers, far more teachers teaching this summer than they normally have teaching,” Marra said. “[the district] actually just agreed to give teachers an extra stipend to incentivize them to keep teaching during the summer after what's been a long year. It's just a really massive flooding of the zone with resources this summer, and that's really kind of unprecedented.”

Scott Travis covers education for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He said Broward Schools are branding their summer programming as a summer experience.

“They really wanted to present a different image this year to say ‘this is going to be for everybody’, “ Travis said. “There will be a major focus on the kids who are struggling, falling behind, especially during the pandemic, but also ones that maybe fell a little behind or maybe ones that are doing fine but just wanted some enrichment.”

WLRN education reporter Jessica Bakeman said the Miami-Dade school district also strived to create summer programming that would help students get caught up in their education, but that also provides entertainment.

“The school district did not get as many students as they wanted,” Bakeman said. “Because the school district was targeting 65,000 students, which is about a quarter of enrollment in traditional public schools, and saying to those families, like, ‘your kids really need extra help, like we really need to see them this summer’ and they ended up getting 52,000.”

Some COVID Practices May Become Part of 'New Normal’

It’s been more than a year since the coronavirus upended our lives. But restrictions related to the germ have been lifted in South Florida and emergency orders rescinded.

It’s up to businesses and individuals to decide what COVID practices to continue and which ones to ditch.

Adam Gersten owns the popular bar Gramps located in Wynwood. He said the business switched to offering table service during the height of the pandemic and they plan on keeping it that way for the foreseeable future.

“We do want to continue offering that because we found that so many people love that experience,” Gersten said. “So [offering table service] is sticking around for us.”

John Burnett is a partner for Taquiza Tacos, a taqueria with locations in North and South Beach in Miami. He said the pandemic offered a “silver lining” that allowed his business to transition from fast food casual to counter service.

“The city let us put picnic tables outside, which helped a great deal, and we made a very interesting change to have table specific QR codes,” Burnett said. “We use that all the time now. And it is great. People don't have to stand in line. They can order from the table. We know where they are, we can run it out. And that level of efficiency really helped. So I think that's going to stay.”

Juneteenth Becomes Federally Recognized Holiday

Florida was one of the first states to observe June 19th as Juneteenth. That was in 1991, 126 years after the day it recognizes. On June 19, 1865 a Union army major general arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed two and a half years earlier, freeing enslaved people.

This week, Congress approved and President Joe Biden signed into law Juneteenth as a federal holiday — June 19 is Juneteenth National Independence Day.

Frederica Wilson represents Florida's 24th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives. She was in the room when Biden signed the bill making Juneteenth a holiday.

“It was just absolutely wonderful, it was such a reckoning on what we've been fighting for, for so many years,” Wilson said. “And to have President Biden come into office and just with the swipe of a pen, make this a reality, it was wonderful.”

The recognition of Juneteenth as a federal holiday came just days after the state board of Education approved a rule banning certain race related teachings from public schools in Florida. Wilson said she doesn’t think the banning will prevent educators from teaching students about the origin of the holiday.

“I think that public school teachers can teach whatever they want to, and I think it's an abomination to our state, to our nation for someone to even think of passing legislation like that, I mean, that's appalling. And it's a shame that they would even put something like that in the law books of the state of Florida.”

Andrea Perdomo is a producer for WLRN News.