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Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho To CBS4: 'Priority Is Safety, Health & Well-Being Of Students & Staff' On Reopening Plans

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Wednesday is the final day for parents of students in Miami-Dade County Public schools to submit a survey in which they are asked to choose which method of learning they prefer for their children when school begins in August.

The learning options are on campus in-person and hybrid courses with staggered schedules, smaller classes and mandatory masks for all or online learning.

To select an enrollment plan for their children, Miami-Dade Schools parents can access a short questionnaire on the Parent Portal or the Dade Schools mobile app. They can also email or print the form and deliver it directly to their child's school.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who heads the nation's fourth largest school district, says it's still too early to make a decision about what classes should look like this fall and he is troubled by the high percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus in Miami-Dade County.

"Our priority is the safety and health and well-being of our students, our teachers or support staff and the community," Carvalho told CBS4's Peter D'Oench on Wednesday.

Prior to an online school board meeting, Carvalho said he and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez met with prominent health experts on Tuesday. They expressed concerns about hospitalization rates, the demand for ICU beds and a spike in positive cases.

"The number one criteria is the positivity rate in our community. The recommended target is not higher than 10 percent. Right now we are not at 10 percent, not at 20 percent. We are over 30 percent in our community."

With these positivity rates, in person classes for the county's 350,000 public school students will not take place if the county remains in Phase 1 by the start of school on August 24.

"Based on all the information from the state level and federal level, Phase 1 does not allow a return to school particularly with the positivity rate that exceeds 30 percent and an increase in hospitalizations," said Carvalho.

School Board Vice Chairman Dr. Steve Gallon is proposing training for parents to support student distance learning at home.

Carvalho says many parents have contacted the school system.

"Tonight at midnight is the deadline for parents to declare. Right now, with over 200,000 parents responding to the survey, about 50 percent of them are telling us they would like their children to return to physical school as long as conditions allow. 48 percent prefer to continue with the continuous remote learning."

Carvalho is emphatic about this message.

"Wear your mask. Maintain social distancing. Make sure you wash your hands and that you are not congregating in large groups of people. if you feel sick, stay at home and don't contaminate others. Get tested. If we do that there's a chance we will progressively reduce the positivity rate and see conduct that will allow a return to school. But at no point should we compromise the health and safety and well-being of our students and those who are teaching them."

In order to give the county's 20,000 teachers, parents and students time to prepare for the upcoming school year, Carvalho expects a final decision about classes to be made by August 10, which is two weeks before they are scheduled to start.

According to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald, the following eight criteria must be met for schools to open:

  1. Sustained COVID-19 positivity rate of less than 10% trending toward 5% for 14 days
  2. Steady reduction in number of individuals hospitalized
  3. Sustained reduction in ICU bed occupancy
  4. Continuous reduced viral burden for 14 days with a decrease of virus-positive individuals
  5. Increase in viral specific COVID-19 test availability with decreased wait time
  6. Turnaround time for test results less than 48 hours
  7. Increase in quantity and quality of contract tracing
  8. Ensuring vaccinations for school-aged children

Wednesday, Florida is reporting another 10,085 new positive COVID-19 cases with 2,514 of those new cases in Miami-Dade County.

Carvalho says locally elected school boards, not the state, ultimately decide whether to open or close school.

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