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State says open Miami-Dade schools by Oct. 5 or give school-by-school reasons as to why not

Three-page letter offers counters to School Board’s decision to have students in classrooms by Oct. 21

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The Miami-Dade School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to delay in person-instruction at its public schools to at least Oct. 14, but Florida’s Education Commissioner sent a strong letter on Friday to both the school board’s chair and superintendent stating “grave concerns” about the delay and advising them of a new opening date.

Richard Corcoran’s three-page letter, addressed to Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho and School Board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman, said that in-person learning must be made available by Oct. 5.

He stated that if the district deems any school should remained closed, a provisional plan would have to be submitted for each — basically answering the question as to why that school needs to remain closed.

These plans would be due to the commission by Oct. 2, according to Corcoran — everything from the number of students who have requested in person instruction at the school to providing “a reasoned explanation to support that finding, citing the specific health and safety guidance you are relying on.”

Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade responded to the letter on Twitter: “This shows the complete lack of local control that the state GOP is expecting from our school board. I hope our board holds their ground to ensure proper safety.”

A special school board meeting has been called for Tuesday, according to MDCPS Chief Communications Officer Daisy Gonzalez-Diego. In a memo sent by Carvalho to the board, he announced that the meeting would be held “in person" in the School Board Administration Building auditorium. (Read memo below.)

The school board’s unanimous vote Tuesday, with the full endorsement of Carvalho, had students returning to school in a staggered approach, with all students in physical classrooms by Oct. 21.

“The intent this progressive staggered approach is to allow school sites to test their health and social distancing protocols and make necessary adjustments,” Carvalho said.

“It provides additional time to redouble our efforts in terms of ensuring all protocols are what they are expected to be, in terms of mitigation strategies, in terms of testing all of our systems.”

Corcoran praised Palm Beach County School District’s ability to open its brick and mortar schools within 16 days of entering Phase 2. “Your plan does not offer that option for all students until 40 days from the time (Miami-Dade) county entered Phase 2, more than twice as long as Palm Beach County Schools,” Corcoran stated.

Gonzalez-Diego said that the letter from the commissioner is being carefully reviewed.

“The District was prepared to launch Stage II of our reopening plan, under the adjusted timeline proffered and unanimously approved by the School Board last week. However, M-DCPS will not be announcing return dates until all implications and concerns outlined in the recently received communication have been assessed and direction from the Board has been received,” Gonzalez-Diego said.

(See the letter below from Florida Department of Education. Also, Superintendent memo to school board calling special meeting.)


About the Authors:

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.

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.