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With First Day Of School Approaching, Miami-Dade Superintendent Still Looking For Right Balance Of COVID Protocols

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The mask debate continues as students prepare to enter the classroom.

"What the public schools are doing is ensuring that our kids are safe," said State Rep. Christopher Benjamin.

Benjamin is among those who support following the CDC recommendation requiring students in school to social distance and wear a mask.

Many school districts have attempted to implement mask mandates, but an executive order issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to withhold funding to districts that did.

With the first day of school approaching, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said they're working to find that balance.

"We hope to be able to negotiate a reopening of schools with protocols that, number one, provide protection for our students with mask, while simultaneously avoiding financial consequences," Carvalho said.

According to CDC, since this time last year, more than 45,000 children have been hospitalized with COVID-19. The American Academy of Pediatrics said in just one week, the US had an 84% increase in new COVID-19 cases among children.

Carvalho said decreasing those number should be the focus when school reopens.

"It is sad that currently in America we see this rhetorical narrative that is deeply influenced by politics rather than medicine and the wise advice of those who know what's in the best interest of our students and the professionals who teach them," he said.

Still, last week the state board of education passed an emergency rule allowing parents who don't want their children wearing a mask to opt out. They can also use the HOPE Scholarship voucher to transfer to private schools. The board said it's about protecting parent choice, which Carvalho said he's also trying to do.

"We should have a balance set of protocols and safeguards that, number one, ensure the health and wellbeing from a protective and preventative perspective of our students and employees," he said. "Side-by-side, obviously, with a psychological impact that we hope to protect of our students and parent choice."

State Rep. Benjamin agrees, saying this wasn't a problem at the height of the pandemic.

"This wasn't an issue when we're trying to transition out of COVID," he said. "To have the kids come back, those children who chose to go to school, we told them they had to wear masks when they were in school and they had to social distance the desk and there was no issue when we did that and there should be no issue now."

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