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With Mask Mandate In Place, Miami-Dade Superintendent Hopes Focus Shifts To Main Challenges Of New School Year

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Broward schools are off and running, so now attention turns to Miami-Dade as it gets ready to resume classes Monday.

Now that a decision is made on masks – they must be worn indoors and on buses – Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho hopes focus can shift to some of main challenges of the upcoming school year, including keeping schools open and minimizing learning loss caused by the pandemic.

"Recognizing those challenges, we have before and after school programs that have been budgeted. We have tutorial programs to assist students in catching up in their learning. We have added to our budgets additional mental health professionals and counselors to provide social, emotional and mental health support for our children," Superintendent Carvalho told CBS4's Lauren Pastrana.

But as the delta variant spreads, some parents were hoping for virtual options. State regulations bar individual schools from offering the same "My School Online" platforms as last year, but kids can enroll in the brand new "Miami-Dade Virtual Academy", which is already 3000-students strong. But those students won't belong to a "neighborhood school".

"That is one of the disadvantages that some parents see to these options, but again that's based on state restrictions is that in fact they would belong not to their neighborhood school or magnet school but to the state-approved virtual school," Carvalho said.

And while he says there are enough teachers, the school system is not immune to shortages like we've seen across other industries.

"To tell you the truth, where we do have a concern is with this national crisis associated with the lack of bus and truck drivers. Obviously we are operating the largest student-bus transportation system in the world. But again, we are at staffing levels comparable to the pandemic so we are very, very optimistic about a smooth opening of schools come Monday," Carvalho said.

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