Schools reopen with technical difficulties, worries about underperformance and virus

As school resumed in Broward and Miami-Dade counties after winter break, public schools were starting to send letters to parents of children who are underperforming academically in an online school setting.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Monday marked the return to school in Broward County after winter break, and online learning was disrupted by technical difficulties.

The internet issues have since been fixed, district officials say, but there is lasting concern about both the effectiveness of online learning and the level of risk for coronavirus spread after some students were back in the classroom after spending time away over the holidays.

To start with the technical issues, the county’s public school district sent a note to parents Monday morning that read:

“Broward County Public Schools is experiencing intermittent district-wide internet access issues impacting all cloud-based workloads including Teams, Office 365, VPN and SharePoint. The Information Technology Division is working with our vendors to determine the root cause and resolution to this issue. An hourly update will be provided until services are restored. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience as we work through this critical matter.”

The district used robocalls, emails and its mobile app to notify families of the issues.

Broward County Public Schools implemented a hybrid learning model in early October in which students can be present in the classroom if they choose, or decide to continue with virtual instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Before Monday, Broward’s schools had been closed since Dec. 21 for the holidays.

Students in Broward County returned from winter break Monday, but the district was experiencing technical difficulties that interrupted online instruction.

Students urged to return

As students return to school this week, both Broward and Miami-Dade public schools are starting to send out letters to parents of children who are underperforming academically in an online school setting.

Parents are being urged to get kids back in the physical classroom, and they have to sign the letter indicating what they want to do.

In Miami-Dade County, more than 10,000 students will get the letter.

In Broward, it’s close to 60,000.

Parents still have the option of whether to send their children back to the classroom or keep them at home doing virtual learning.

Teachers worry about virus spread

As coronavirus positivity rates keep elevating concern, the return of thousands of students back to the physical classroom has teachers worried.

“The concern is that the spread of COVID is going to happen at a more rapid rate other than what is already happening without schools being opened at full capacity,” said Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has been adamant about bringing students back to the classroom, saying spread in schools is minimal.

On Monday, he reiterated what he has said in the past: Teachers, at least for now, are not the priority when it comes to getting COVID-19 vaccines.

“If he’s really interested in making sure that all of our community and all of our students have the opportunities to come in and have that in-person education, then he should have also prioritized teachers to make sure that they’re safe,” said Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade.

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.