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MDCPS Approves Reopening Plan — Here's What Parents Should Expect

Miami-Dade County Public Schools

The Miami Dade County Public Schools Board met yesterday to discuss its reopening plan for August. The goal is to provide parents with multiple options that best fit their families’ needs. This includes learning fully in-person, online only and hybrid combinations of both.

The board approved the plan. However, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said it was dependent on where the county is in the reopening process.

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“We are still in phase one and phase one does not permit an option for school attendance in a traditional manner,” he said. ”Our plan hinges minimally on a transition to phase two standards. If that does not occur, then we pivot.”

The board wants to allow as much time as possible for students to physically present at schools. They are weighing the potential health risks against the need to provide students with a well-rounded experience, not only academically, but also socially and emotionally.

In the schoolhouse model, students would attend school daily. The board will consider additional feedback from parents, who will receive a survey next week asking if they plan on sending their kids to campuses. If more than 75 percent of the responses are a "yes," then parents should expect a hybrid model of learning, where kids would physically attend school 2-3 times a week.

The rest of the school work would be done virtually. Parents will receive details on the type of model implemented by the end of July. Groups that will be prioritized for on-campus learning are Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK), Head Start/Early Head Start, and students with disabilities.

Credit Miami-Dade County Public Schools
Miami-Dade County Public Schools
Students should expect a "safety first" approach for their in-person learning experience in the fall.

The board established guidelines to ensure that campuses will be safe. Face masks will be mandatory for teachers and students. Sanitization will be a priority, both in classrooms and on public buses. Installation of transparent barriers is also being considered in certain cases, such as in buses around the driver’s seats. Class sizes will be reduced and spaces such as cafeterias and libraries will be used for learning. Students will likely have grab-and-go meals, to be eaten outside or in classrooms. A contact tracing system will be created, where cohorts of students will be assembled to limit mass movement and exposure. 

According to a survey of more than 100,700 parents, more than 70 percent prefer some sort of physical attendance —  either fully or partially through a hybrid approach.

The board has two hybrid learning models. The first consists of two cohorts of students switching each day between in-school and online learning. This would establish a two week schedule with interchanging days for each group to be on campus. The second hybrid model follows a block schedule, where the groups switch every two days for two weeks.

Both these options do not provide a consistent weekly schedule for families and do not allow for a day of deep cleaning. During the public comments portion of the meeting, MDCPS teacher Mary Keane Hall expressed her dissatisfaction with any type of in-person learning. 

“The hybrid models do not offer any comfort to me as we are still being exposed and would be depending on deep cleaning,” she wrote. “Let's be realistic and acknowledge that this is not feasible. Please think carefully … and choose wisely based on everyone’s health, not on the fact that some want schools open for babysitting purposes.”

The district will also provide the option of full-time online learning for parents who don’t feel comfortable sending their kids to school. Students would attend classes virtually during regular school hours. Teachers would meet with students daily through web conferences and design lessons to fit the medium.

Grab-and-go meals will be available for pick up, and students could choose to return to campuses in the spring. The board stated that online learning would not be an option for VPK and Head Start students.

Extracurricular activities and athletic programs will be phased in, starting this month. The district will follow guidance from the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA). Safety measures include sanitization of shared equipment and the reduction of group sizes for before and afterschool programs, with the potential of adjusting operational hours. Activities will be held virtually when possible. The board expects programs such as internships and dual enrollment to continue, most likely virtually.

The district will distribute wellness surveys to families in order to identify their priorities when reopening. Mental health services will be provided both in-person and virtually. The district will continue operating the Mental Health Parent Assistance Line, which can be reached by calling 305-995-7100. 

Communication efforts will also be in place by the district to stay connected with families, employees, and community stakeholders. Some of the methods that will be used are automated messaging, digital newsletters, social media posts, outreach to local news outlets, telephone support lines and a dedicated page on the district’s website. These will be offered in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole. Safety guidelines will also be communicated through signs at schools and buses, as well as educational videos. 

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