Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) are planning for remote classes this fall, but still pondering how to structure them. With this in mind, it’s worth looking back at the many services offered this past spring during the COVID-19 pandemic: tutoring, laptop handouts, internet discounts and free meals for students and their families.
These resources helped students continue school through distance learning and also put food on their families’ table, according to M-DCPS.
“I was worried that when my friends and I weren’t allowed to go to school any more that I would have to repeat the same grade next year,” said Gage Velez, a middle school student at David Lawrence K-8. “Now I don’t have to worry about that because I continued to go to school, even if it wasn’t in a classroom.”
One of the best M-DCPS services was free internet through Comcast. Families in the community can sign up for the Internet Essentials Program, which provides a modem as well as 60 days of free service for low-income families who are eligible. Comcast is also continuing to offer free internet through Xfinity hotspots where service is available for 60 days. The hotspots can be located using this map. There is also flexibility on late fees and payment options.
“I’m happy to be able to help the families in this community receive free internet so that these kids can continue their learning,” said Aaron Cervantes, an installation employee for Comcast. “I love to help people, and so this is something I’m currently taking pride in.”
Many students in Miami-Dade County rely on schools for their meals. With schools now closed, those students have had to figure out where their next meal will come from. To help with this problem, M-DCPS has distributed free food twice a week and will continue to do so until the quarantine period has ended.
Throughout 50 school sites on Tuesdays and Fridays, meals are being handed out from 4-7 p.m. Feeding South Florida is helping as well.
“Working every day with children who rely on school lunches for their one meal a day breaks my heart,” said Sabrina St Gerard, a school cafeteria employee. “I was so worried about my students when the schools all closed. I’m so glad the school district stepped in to help feed these children.”
Tutoring services have also been helping many students across Miami-Dade. Aimed to help high school students, a tutoring service called HOPE offers help with more than 30 subjects. Students have signed up for courses such as calculus, physics, history, foreign languages and literature.
“This is such a negative time right now for everyone, so we all need a bit of positivity,” said Anna Alvarez, a teacher at Felix Varela High School. “Being able to know my students can get help if they need it, is my bit of positivity.”
Laptops are now a necessity in every household, but there are still those unable to access them. M-DCPS has offered laptops to students so they can continue learning through Zoom, and access tutoring if they need it. About 90,000 laptops have been distributed to families, helping 26 percent of the 345,000 students in Miami-Dade County.
“To know that the community I live in cares so much for the well-being of my child and also me as a parent makes me feel appreciated,” said Kenneth Velasquez, Gage Velez’s father. “I just hope it continues.”