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Miami-Dade, Palm Beach School Districts Prepare For Reopening Soon

A schoolteacher works with her own kids who are logging on to school during the coronavirus pandemic. Three kids are in front of their devices.
Charles Trainor Jr.
/
via Miami Herald
Schoolteacher Maria Paula Attento works with her own children, Gianmarco in first grade, Sergio in sixth grade and Gianna in fourth grade, in their Miami-Dade home.

As coronavirus cases decline, school districts leaders in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties discuss starting up in-classroom learning again.

It's been a challenging first week of school in Miami-Dade County.

The school district is dealing with several cyber attacks that disrupted online learning for hundreds of thousands of students and teachers.

On Thursday, a Miami-Dade high school student was arrested in connection to some of the attacks. Federal and state law enforcement agencies are investigating whether other people are involved.

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Meanwhile, the governor approved a request by Palm Beach County's mayor to delay reopening in-classroom learning until Sept. 21, according to the Palm Beach Post. School district leaders recently discussed concerns about high-risk teachers returning to campuses.

The Miami-Dade school district is also getting ready to reopen school buildings soon, possibly this month, according to Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

“We are encouraged by the latest trends. We also have a feeling that based on conversations between the county and the state, that there may be a movement towards a phase two status in the county and that we ought to be prepared for that,” Carvalho said on WLRN’s South Florida Roundup Friday.

Here’s an excerpt of his conversation with host Tom Hudson:

TOM HUDSON: Are you satisfied that you know why the online learning system failed earlier this week?

ALBERTO CARVALHO: I cannot say that I'm satisfied. We are absolutely aware now of what the challenges were, because of this series of interruptions to connectivity that we had initially without knowing the reason, but then finding out that, in fact, we were being cyber attacked.

Obviously, we now know that there were some significant challenges with a brand new platform that we launched, more severe on the 6-12 arena than the K-5. In fact, yesterday when we decoupled those two elements within the platform, we had a much better day. And today is even a better day. We have not detected significant, systemic, widespread issues. Obviously, there may be individual connectivity issues. But the system appears to be performing very well at this point.

There was the denial of service attacks. Do those continue on this Friday?

Those continued. I can tell you that even this morning we have been attacked. They were all fended off successfully using the same strategies, the same mitigation strategies that most districts across the country and private sector entities utilize.

You have said that the school district could return no sooner than Oct. 5 to in-schoolhouse learning this week. You said you may reopen as soon as mid-September.

That's correct.

We are encouraged by the latest trends. It is an optimistic position, but it's one that we are preparing for, a second week of September, maybe third week of September.
Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade schools superintendent

What's the criteria that you're using to potentially move up that return to the school building date?

All along, we have been informed by public health and medical experts. Those individuals developed eight specific data elements. One of the most important ones is the positivity rate declining for at least two weeks below 10 percent, approaching 5 percent. Mortality, morbidity, ICU usage, as well as hospitalizations. The vast majority, if not all of the data points, are trending absolutely in the right direction.

One of the data points was waiting no more than 48 hours for test results.

Correct.

Are you satisfied that will be the case by mid-September?

We've seen improvements. That's one of the data elements that hasn't quite reached the targeted level. That's why I'm not ready to provide a definitive date. But even the experts said, "Look, these are eight element points. If six of the eight, seven of the eight, are determined to have been met, then it is possible to reopen." But before we do that, we're going to reconvene the medical experts and review all of the data.

Will that happen before next week's school board meeting?

It is my intent to actually have at least a preliminary conversation with these individuals prior to the board meeting. And I believe that will not be the last one. We are encouraged by the latest trends. It is an optimistic position, but it's one that we are preparing for, a second week of September, maybe third week of September, a possible reopening, even if it is a staggered or wave based reopening, not necessarily all students.

The transcript of this interview has been edited lightly for brevity and clarity.

Also on the Roundup
The Miami Herald's education reporter Colleen Wright shared her reporting on the tough first week of online learning in Miami-Dade County.
Also on the Roundup
The Palm Beach Post's education reporter Andrew Marra talked about the tension over reopening Palm Beach County public schools.

Alexander Gonzalez produces the afternoon newscasts airing during All Things Considered. He enjoys helping tell the South Florida story through audio and digital platforms. Alex is interested in a little of everything from business to culture to politics.
In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN.  He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.