South Florida Superintendents Consider Reopening Schools Mid-September


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By Giselle Balido

August 26, 2020

The announcement came two days after Florida teachers won their legal battle with Gov. Ron DeSantis, who pushed to reopen schools by the end of August.

Despite Florida teachers’ worries about returning to the classroom for in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic, public school superintendents in Miami-Dade and Broward counties are considering reopening campuses sooner than previously thought.

The timing of the decision, they said Tuesday, will reflect a reduction trend in coronavirus testing positivity rates in each county. Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie said the timing for reopening brick-and-mortar schools will require a positivity rate of 3% to 5% for 14 consecutive days, adding that he can’t “guarantee or commit to any specific date, as the path of the virus will drive the decisions we have to make.”

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However, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the Miami Herald he is “very confident” they will be able to move that deadline up “sometime to the middle of September at the latest.”

Still, the Sunshine State remains the second state in the country with the most cases after California. And according to the state’s DOH pediatric report, as of Wednesday, 48,928 children under 18 years of age have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state.

Teachers Win DeSantis Lawsuit

The announcement from Miami-Dade and Broward school superintendents came just two days after Florida teachers won their legal battle with Gov. Ron DeSantis, who at the urging of President Donald Trump, pushed to reopen school classrooms by the end of the month.

Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson declared that the state “essentially ignored the requirement for school safety” by insisting that teachers resume in-person education, as he ruled in favor of the Florida Education Association.

Broward students started online classes Aug. 19. Miami-Dade students will start online classes on Aug. 31.

COVID-19 Cases in Schools

On August 20, the Miami Herald reported that over a span of five months about 600 employees within the Miami-Dade County Public School System tested positive for COVID-19. The reported 578 cases were tracked through claims made to insurance companies from March to July of 2020. 

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In other parts of the state, about 175 students and staff at Seminole County public schools are in quarantine because of possible exposure to the coronavirus. This comes less than two weeks into the new school year, as the Seminole school district opened its campuses on Aug. 17, with about 44% of its students attending in-person classes. 

Additionally, the Sun Sentinel reports cases of coronavirus also have been found at two Orange County public schools, which began in-person classes Friday, and at several schools in Osceola County, which opened for face-to-face lessons Monday. However, the Osceola cases occurred mostly during teachers’ planning week and have not led to student quarantines.

Worrisome Studies

Adding to these worries, a recent study conducted at MassGeneral Hospital for Children found that some children have high levels of virus in their airways during the first three days of infection, even if they have mild symptoms or none at all. According to the study, they may have been acting as silent spreaders all along.

Along with two other recent studies, it suggests their role in community spread may be larger than previously believed. 

All three studies were small and contradict one another in some details, according to The Washington Post, but “but taken together, they paint a worrisome new picture of children’s role in the pandemic.” Experts agree more studies are needed.

For this reason, they think this should be discussed when debating opening the schools.



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