MIAMI – More than 22,000 students are returning to classrooms in Miami-Dade County on Monday for the first time since schools shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pre-K, kindergarten and first grade students are the first to return to the Miami-Dade Public School district under a staggered reopening plan. Another 40,000 students are expected to return to classrooms on Wednesday, with yet another group starting on Friday. Another group of students will continue distance learning from their homes. Miami-Dade is the nation’s fourth largest district, with 345,000 students.
The school board originally wanted to push the reopening back to mid-October but settled on Monday's start date after Florida's education secretary threatened to withhold state funding. Miami-Dade County’s daily positive test result rate on Sunday was over 5% during four of the previous seven days.
School officials prepared campuses for social distancing, installed air filters and arranged for school nurses and “medically trained staff" to be present at each school. Each student is expected to receive a thermometer when returning to school.
Many teachers and parents have expressed concern over the system's readiness to return to brick-and-mortar schools, including student-teacher ratios, sanitation supplies and masks. District officials say they are well prepared for students to return.
In neighboring Broward County, which boasts the country's sixth largest district, school officials are preparing for a staggered reopening beginning on Friday.
South Florida has been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus, but is complying with Gov. Ron DeSantis' order to put the entire state into Phase 3 of his coronavirus recovery plan, with only case-by-case exceptions to his call for all businesses and restaurants to reopen.
Florida on Monday had more than 1,415 new reported coronavirus cases and 41 new related deaths. Florida now has had 717,874 total cases of the virus, and 14,886 related deaths.