Education

Miami-Dade, Broward public schools to remain open amid coronavirus pandemic

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The Miami-Dade and Broward school districts plan to remain open with normal operations despite a growing number of positive coronavirus cases in South Florida.

The respective fourth- and sixth-largest school districts in the nation held back-to-back press conferences Thursday. It was the first scheduled presser for Broward, where seven people have confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, more than any other county in Florida.

A lack of widespread testing in Miami-Dade County has been a cause of major concern for local officials. The governor announced Thursday that more novel coronavirus testing kits are on the way to South Florida.

Despite a robocall urging parents to tune into the 3 p.m. press conference, Broward’s announcements lacked much detail. Superintendent Robert Runcie announced that all after-school activities are canceled. He also put a moratorium on all travel — academic, athletic, extracurricular — within the state, effective Monday.

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Runcie said the district has plans in place to provide remote learning, including packets that can be done at home and using digital textbooks and learning platforms. He said the district could scale up Broward Virtual University, which currently serves 9,300 students.

Runcie defended the decision to not close schools.

“Closing a school and an entire district has enormous ramifications,” he said. “It affects the economy, it affects the health care system.”

In its third press conference on the issue, Miami-Dade County Public Schools broke from Broward in its approach to after-school activities.

“We feel that it sends a disconnected message to our community of learners, parents and students if we are maintaining our school system open” but not after-school activities, said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. He said the district is suspending its internship program for students.

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The district has said it has 200,000 digital mobile devices available for remote learning in the unlikely event that schools need to close. It is currently surveying families on their need at home, including if they have Internet connectivity.

Carvalho added that because the district is self-insured, any district employee can be tested for the novel coronavirus for free, without a co-pay.

“We do not envision and have no reason to shut down any classroom,” he said. “There is active ongoing teaching and learning.”

“It’s business as usual,” he added.

Some private schools, however, have moved to close schools temporarily.

Gulliver, a non-religious private school in Miami serving about 2,200 students in grades Pre-K 3 through 12, announced Thursday that it will cancel school Monday and Tuesday so faculty and staff can prepare for teaching remotely. Students will learn remotely Wednesday and Thursday, as spring break begins March 20.

The school said in an email that it hopes to resume normal operations by March 30.

Scheck Hillel Community School, based in North Miami Beach, announced Thursday that it will begin teaching online classes on Tuesday. The school will operate normally on Friday but will be closed Monday.

In Broward, David Posnack Jewish Day School and Brauser Maimonides Academy will transition to remote online learning beginning Monday.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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