Miami-Dade navigating teacher shortages, pandemic-era disruptions on eve of new school year

Ahead of the new school year, the superintendent in Miami-Dade County opened up about his plan for issues both COVID and non-COVID related that they may face.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Ahead of the new school year, the superintendent in Miami-Dade County opened up about his plan for issues both COVID and non-COVID related that they may face.

From teacher shortages to some students still struggling to meet grade level standards due to pandemic disruptions, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Jose Dotres says the focus for this school year is to connect and inspire.

“We cannot think that the pandemic is over and everybody is back on track, no,” he said.

Wednesday’s start of the school year in Miami-Dade comes on the heels of pandemic-era disruptions to learning continuity, and while gains have been made to close the so-called COVID-19 learning gap, a new study found that significant gaps between current and historic achievement levels still exist.

“It will be with us for a while,” Dotres said. “It is not like we are done, not like they are back on track.”

Dotres also said the district remains focused on students achieving grade level proficiency, with federal dollars funding interventions at each school site to include after school tutoring.

“And even Saturday tutorial so every school has their own format or delivery,” Dotres said, adding that during the first two weeks of enrollment, “We are going to make sure any student who registered and didn’t show up, there will be a lot of follow up to integrate them.”

There is also a teacher shortage that was made worse by the pandemic. It’s a statewide issue that also has impacted Miami-Dade County.

“We are impacted in four primary areas,” Dotres said.

Those areas are high level math, science, special education and high school language arts.

“To the point that we are recruiting outside the typical college of education but actually going to other disciplines because we know we have very talented individuals that are very strong with their content and if they have a passion to work with students they can be exceptional teachers,” Dotres said.

Miami-Dade School Board members voted Monday to make amendments to its school safety board policy in order to implement HB 1421, a new statewide school safety law. Those amendments include:

• Clarifying the responsibility of school administrators to determine if additional Safe-School Officers are needed for extra-curricular and after-school events by considering pertinent safety factors and making the request to Miami-Dade Schools Police through their Region;

• Specifying that the District must maintain current listings of mobile panic alert systems implemented by all public schools, including charter schools, within the District, and update the information within five (5) school days of a school opening or closing, or when any other change occurs that impacts the accuracy of the information provided by the District to the Office of Safe Schools;

• Requiring charter schools within the District to maintain current listings of mobile panic alert systems implemented, provide the required information to the District in accordance with District directives, and update the information to the District within two (2) school days of a school opening or closing, or when any other change occurs that impacts the accuracy of the information provided by the District to the Office of Safe Schools;

• Cross-referencing the requirement in Board Policy 8410, Emergency Management, Preparedness, and Response, that drills for active assailant and hostage situations shall be conducted at least as often as emergency drills and fire drills required by the Florida Fire Prevention Code, as adopted by the State Fire Marshall;

• Requiring that all reported threats, even those determined not to be a threat, must be documented by the threat assessment team, that documentation must include the evaluation process and any resultant action, and that all members of the threat assessment team must be involved in the threat assessment process and final decision making. Page 2 of 2 Additionally, proposed amendments to Board Policy 8405, School Safety, and Board Policy 8410, Emergency Management, Preparedness, and Response, include:

• Specifying that the District’s “Alyssa’s Alert” mobile panic alert system includes a panic alert feature within the mobile application for use by employees. The policies require all administrators to download and sign up for the mobile application; and

• Requiring that law enforcement officers responsible for responding to the school in the event of an active assailant emergency, as determined necessary by the sheriff/local law enforcement authority in coordination with the District’s School Safety Specialist, must be physically present on campus and directly involved in the execution of active assailant emergency drills, and that the District must notify law enforcement officers at least 24 hours before conducting an active assailant emergency drill at which such law enforcement officers are expected to attend. Finally, an additional proposed amendment to Board Policy 8410, Emergency Management, Preparedness, and Response, includes language specifying that the District’s Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) will include a family reunification plan to reunite students and employees with their families in the event that a school is closed or unexpectedly evacuated due to a natural or manmade disaster, which must be reviewed annually and updated, as applicable.”


About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."