Parents and faculty are concerned about the prospective reopening of Miami-Dade County public elementary schools in August and the effects of remote learning on students.
Miami-Dade County closed public schools on March 13 and transitioned to remote learning. Students and faculty worked remotely until the school year ended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The district created a plan that set specific educational standards, such as reduced class size and learning models, for a potential reopening in August. The plan was sent to the Miami-Dade school board this month.
The Securing Opportunities for Academic Recovery Plan, or SOAR, is included in the plan. SOAR will assist students who had academic trouble finishing the school year remotely. Miami-Dade County Public Schools also released a survey on the topic of reopening schools for parents to complete. This survey helped the district understand what procedures parents want strongly enforced when schools reopen.
It is likely that because middle and high school students are older, they will not have as much difficulty adapting to virtual learning as elementary school students, who need more assistance setting up for class and participating because of their age.
Angelica Ramirez, a teacher at Christina M. Eve Elementary in Miami, believes elementary school is a learning foundation to prepare younger students for future academics. This, she says, is difficult amidst the distractions of a virtual classroom.
“With elementary-aged children, the challenge for me was that their learning is more visual and hands-on,” said Ramirez. “Not being able to be in my classroom with my materials, the setting of the classroom and the routine [the students] were used to was hard.”
Ramirez said schools will open in August, but she does not think they will operate the same as before. She believes there will be a new schedule so they don’t reach maximum capacity and social distancing remains possible. Ramirez also believes schools may offer the option for parents to decide if they will keep their kids learning remotely or have them attend physical classes.
“If [schools] gave that option, they wouldn’t penalize the students,” said Ramirez. “That is one of the options that parents will have to choose from to continue with online learning when August comes.”
Ramirez said when schools do reopen, the most important safety protocol for elementary school students will be washing their hands.
“Wiping down the desks and handwashing was important even before quarantine,” said Ramirez. “[Administrators] are considering taking the temperatures of children before they enter schools. The most important thing is keeping everyone healthy and safe.”
Genesis Gonzalez tutored elementary school students before the quarantine. She said once schools went remote, it became a lot harder to communicate with the kids.
“Elementary-aged children rely on in-person communication,” said Gonzalez. “It is not easy to catch their attention when they’re sitting at home and on a computer. With shorter meeting times, it also makes my job harder because I am not able to explain things to them in ways they could understand through a computer screen.”
Gonzalez said school closures have impacted children academically as well. She noted that the children’s focus was affected by remote learning.
“Without their teachers and their in-person lessons, the material is so much more difficult for them to get,” said Gonzalez. “They love to ask questions and be curious about everything.”
Tomas Ramirez is a parent of an elementary school student. He said his daughter had more difficulty than usual staying focused on her schoolwork and missed seeing her friends. He hopes classes will be physical, or at least hybrid, in August.
“I don’t think the majority of parents want to have to go through remote learning again,” said Ramirez. “Many parents are back in their offices, so unless they also can stay home, it would be a lot for kids to be back at home remotely learning.”