Miami-Dade public schools hold ‘Week of Welcome’ webinars for parents

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Miami-Dade County Public Schools is focusing this week on welcoming students and their parents or guardians to the technicalities of distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

The first day of classes online is Aug. 31. Official school attendance will be recorded. Administrators are aiming for student-teacher interactions to provide a structure similar to a classroom.

The new Miami Week of Welcome site is offering webinars starting on Monday with online safety, parent account registration, problem-solving skills and social-emotional learning. The e-Tips guides and the videos are available in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho will conduct a webinar at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Carvalho released a reopening webinar that included discussions with public health experts in July.

Other resources include a three-page back-to-school checklist and a 63-page re-opening guide that includes the specifics of procedures that will be implemented during the 2020-2021 school year.

The district is planning to announce a schoolhouse return to the classrooms on Oct. 5 no later than Sept. 30. Students will be required to have immunizations, wear face masks and uniforms.

For more information about the Week of Welcome events, call 305-995-3000 or visit the district’s designated site.

3 public school online options

My School Online, or MSO, is for students in grades K-12 who want to maintain enrollment status at their brick-and-mortar school when schoolhouses reopen. It has a set schedule.

Miami-Dade Online Academy, or MDO, is for students in grades K-12 who want permanent online education. It is academically individualized.

Florida Virtual School, or FLVS, is not a Miami-Dade County public school. The statewide program has courses that are available 24/7 online.


Florida judge: Reopening public schools ‘disregards safety’

The Associated Press

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Miami Dolphins NFL football team have decided to allow up to 13,000 socially distancing fans to attend their home opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sept 20, with the approval of state and local political leaders. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

A Florida judge temporarily blocked Gov. Ron DeSantis and top education officials from forcing public schools to reopen brick-and-mortar classrooms amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, ruling that the state’s order “arbitrarily disregards safety.”

But the temporary injunction issued Monday by Leon County Judge Charles Dodson was immediately put on hold when the state appealed the ruling.

In his ruling, Dodson said the mandate to reopen schools usurped local control from school districts in deciding for themselves whether it was safe for students, teachers and staffers to return.

“The districts have no meaningful alternative,” the judge wrote in his opinion.

“If an individual school district chooses safety, that is, delaying the start of schools until it individually determines it is safe to do so for its county, it risks losing state funding, even though every student is being taught,” he ruled.

The Florida Education Association had sued the state after Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an order earlier this summer mandating that schools reopen classrooms by Aug. 31 or risk losing funding.

“Local communities should have the freedom to make the best decisions for reopening or keeping open local schools. Our districts should not be ruled by reckless edicts from on high. Safety must come before politics,” FEA President Fedrick Ingram said.

Corcoran said he was confident that an appellate court would affirm the state’s decision to reopen classrooms for in-person instruction.

“This fight has been, and will continue to be, about giving every parent, every teacher and every student a choice, regardless of what educational option they choose,” Corcoran said in a statement noting that 1.6 million students of the state’s 2.9 million public school students had already returned.

Most of the state’s schools have already reopened, but Monday’s ruling — should it be upheld by a state appellate court — will give local school boards more authority to control whether campuses stay open or closed.

“We’ve said it all along, and we will say it one million times – we are 100% confident we will win this lawsuit,” Corcoran’s statement read.

The ruling came as Florida’s coronavirus spread appeared to be waning, although it still outpaces the ability of contact tracers to contain outbreaks. With several key metrics on the decline, the Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami Hurricanes were readying to welcome fans back to Hard Rock Stadium under social distancing conditions.

State-provided statistics showed 4,655 people being treated for COVID-19 in Florida hospitals on Monday, less than half of the peaks above 9,500 a month ago.

A total of 72 new deaths were reported, bringing the seven day average down to 123, the lowest rate in a month. Average daily increases in cases over the past week have declined to a level not seen since late June.

DeSantis told a news conference Monday that emergency-room visits for COVID-19-like illnesses have declined about 75% since a statewide peak on July 7.

The situation has improved so much, DeSantis said, that the Miami Dolphins football team can now have up to 13,000 socially distancing fans attend their home opener against Buffalo on Sept. 20.

“We have to have society function,” the governor said. “You can take the basic steps to make sure that’s done safely. But to just say, ‘No, we’re not going to do anything,’ I don’t think that’s a viable pathway for the state going forward.”

The University of Miami will follow the same coronavirus mitigation plan for its home opener against UAB at the Dolphins’ stadium on Sept. 10, officials said.

“We’re heading to a more normal kind of life,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Crowd size will be about 20% of the stadium’s 65,326-seat capacity, with each group of spectators spaced 6 feet (two meters) apart. And guests will be required to wear masks. Dolphins authorities say guest services, stadium personnel and law enforcement will enforce the mask rule.

“If that is your idea that you can’t be made to wear a mask, this is not the place for you. We view wearing a masks in public places as a contribution to the community, to our collective safety,” Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III.

U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, who served as the secretary of health and human services during the Clinton administration, expressed concern about bringing fans back into Hard Rock Stadium.

“So the kinds of precautions that need to be taken are extraordinary, and I think it’s going to be very difficult to do as long as we have community spread,” Shalala said during a Monday morning press call organized by the Democratic Party of Florida.

“We’ve seen evidence that if you put everybody in a bubble, as the NBA has, they at least could prevent a lot of infections. But it is risky -- there is no question -- that it’s risky when you have community spread,” Shalala said.

As world grapples with pandemic, schools are the epicenter

The Associated Press

FILE - In this July 7, 2020 file photo, a pupil's temperature is checked on returning to school in Johannesburg, The World Health Organization has on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020 urged that African governments should accelerate the reopening of schools, saying that the continent's youths will suffer from prolonged closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell, file) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The world is settling into a new normal for everyday life amid the coronavirus pandemic: online school classes, intermittent Zoom outages, museums that will only allow about a quarter of their usual visitors.

More than 800,000 people worldwide have perished from the virus and more than 23.5 million have contracted it, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University — figures experts say understate the true toll due to limited testing, missed mild cases and other factors.

Older people and those with underlying health conditions appear to be the most vulnerable. However, there's uncertainty about long-term effects and what impact millions of school children around the globe returning to classrooms might have on the virus' spread.

A significant red flag emerged in Hong Kong, where scientists say they have the first evidence of someone being reinfected with the virus that causes COVID-19. The case raises alarm bells, suggesting that surviving an infection does not provide lifelong immunity.


Just in time for back-to-school, the World Health Organization has updated its guidance for mask-wearing by children, notably saying those 6 to 11 years old should wear them to fight the coronavirus, but that it depends on local factors and other criteria.

Kids under 6 years old should not wear masks, WHO says, while those over 12 should wear them just like adults should, notably in cases where physical distancing cannot be ensured and in areas of high transmission rates.

The recommendations expanded upon previous WHO guidance that children under the age of 12 were not considered as likely to spread the virus as much as adults. Children in general do face less severe symptoms than adults, with the elderly the most vulnerable to severe infection. Read more >

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About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.