Staff Report

MIAMI, Fla. (AP) – The resurgence of the coronavirus in the United States has ignited fierce debate about whether and when to reopen schools, as global health officials warn that the pandemic will intensify unless more countries adopt comprehensive plans to combat it.

"If the basics aren’t followed, there is only one way this pandemic is going to go," said the director of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "It’s going to get worse and worse and worse."

Debate over the risks the virus poses, and how best to fight it, were spotlighted in Florida over the weekend after it shattered the record among U.S. states for the largest single-day increase, with more than 15,000 newly confirmed cases.

Officials and health experts in hard-hit Miami pushed back against pressure, both from Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump, to bring students back to classrooms next month.

"We just absolutely cannot risk the health of children, their well-being and safety, or any of our colleagues," said Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade union and a middle school teacher herself. "We’re probably going to have to go to a full shutdown mode. I can’t see the schools reopening except with the 100% virtual model."


With the pandemic raging in South Florida in particular, the virtual model has emerged as a tortured back-to-school consensus among local school officials.

On Tuesday, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie cited the latest results of the district’s school reopening questionnaire, as well as data on the rise of coronavirus cases in South Florida, and the health and safety of students, teachers and staff, in his recommendation to begin the school year through e-Learning on Aug. 19.

During her district’s meeting at the South Florida Times deadline, Palm Beach County School Board member Barbara McQuinn was expected to seek a few weeks’ delay of the district’s scheduled Aug. 10 start date to ease the toll of distance learning, the Palm Beach Post reported. School districts in Orlando, Sarasota Polk and St. Johns counties on Tuesday pushed their start dates until later in August.

Although the Palm Beach County School Board coalesced last week around Superintendent Donald Fennoy’s onlineonly proposal for resuming classes, until the pandemic improves, another board member, retired physician Debra Robinson, earlier had proposed postponing the classroom return date to citing the virus’ dangers for students, teachers and staff. The Classroom Teachers Association on Tuesday expressed openness to a delay not extending into September. But the union has sought the Aug. 10 start with online-only classes.

Wednesday also was the deadline for Miami-Dade County Public Schools parents to submit the declaration of intent with their preferred option for their children’s fall semester enrollment.

The district’s Reopening Plan provides three options for parents: attending school physically five days a week, utilizing virtual school, and adopting a combination of the two via a hybrid model of delivery.


Also, at Wednesday’’s meeting, Vice Chair Steve Gallon was scheduled to ask the School Board to provide training for parents on effective and efficient use of distance/digital learning in preparation for the new school year.

“While there is continued public and political posturing and pontificating around the reopening of schools, there are real families, real children, and real parents in a state of panic around the need for training, support, and assistance in the education of their children,” Gallon said.

“Clearly, the district has done a great job in the provision of technological and other resources for parents and their children. However, knowledge and capacity are the most important resources with which we must equip parents and guardians, especially those from underserved families and communities.