Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Staggering Back To School

From the Miami Herald:

At the end of what may be a record-breaking 29-hour special meeting that began Monday, the Miami-Dade County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to push back the gradual start of in-person classes until Oct. 14, more than a week later than first proposed.

The board is following the staggered reopening of schools that Superintendent Alberto Carvalho recommended Monday, but with later dates to make sure schools are ready and teachers and staff are protected from the spread of coronavirus.

A soft opening of schools is expected for students in Pre-K, kindergarten and first grade and students with special needs on Oct. 14.

All elementary school students, plus students in sixth, ninth and 10th grades — some of whom are entering new buildings and schools for the first time — can return the next day. On that day, all high school students, whether learning online or in-person, would go back to starting school at 7:20 a.m.

Schools would be fully open for all students who wish to return to the schoolhouse on Oct. 21.

The timeline applies only to the 51% of students whose parents chose for them to return to school, based on the district’s parental surveys. The remainder of the students will continue with online learning.

The new plan, which the school board approved around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday after more than four hours of changes and debate, also comes with a no-opt teacher planning day moved to Oct. 13.

Before opening, the school district must also have a “verified provision of all PPE (personal protective equipment) and related resources and full compliance with all required and represented procedures, protocols, personnel, and approaches presented regarding employee and School House Model reopening readiness presented by the Superintendent.”

A formal recommendation from medical experts must be provided to the school board prior to reopening.

I work part-time for two District-managed charter schools, and I work in one of those school offices two days a week (the other school I work strictly from home). The school where I report to has the strict CDC and District protocols in place, and on Monday we welcomed back students in Kindergarten and Grades 1 through 3.

We are a comparatively small school. Even at full enrollment we are under 800 students in Grades K-10, and the remote option remains; we’ve been doing that for a couple of weeks now with our students.

There is no easy way to do this.  Unlike some people’s thinking, we can’t just throw open the doors and let chance and hope lead the way.  Lives are at stake, and not just the students.  Some of the most vulnerable age groups — over 60 — work in the schools as teachers, staff, and other ancillary positions.  And for those politicians who are pushing so hard for the schools to re-open, I’d like to offer them the opportunity to spend a week in our school and see if they are willing to be brave enough to do it.  Any takers?