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As 1st wave of Miami pupils return, some worry about safety

Miami-Dade school teachers prepare for Monday reopening.
Miami-Dade school teachers prepare for Monday reopening.

MIAMI – As Florida's largest school district prepares for a first wave of students to return to physical classrooms on Monday, several teachers and parents say schools are struggling to be ready.

Parents and teachers told the Miami Herald that the ventilation and air quality at some schools are concerning because of the way the schools are designed. A teacher told the newspaper that staff hadn't received face masks, wipes or hand sanitizer at one school in order to protect against the new coronavirus.

Teachers were spacing out desks without a measuring stick, according to that teacher.

A district spokeswoman said the school had given out cloth masks and the teacher was asking for a different type of mask.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho on Saturday posted photos on social media showing schools with signage promoting social distancing and hygiene, air filters, socially distant desks and buses with hand sanitizer.

“Spent the day conducting school visits and touring one of our bus facilities,” Carvalho wrote. “Air filters have been replaced, front offices are properly equipped, our buses have hand sanitizer and appropriate signage, and our empty classrooms are ready to welcome students back.”

Around 22,000 students in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade and students with disabilities who follow a modified schedule are returning Monday as part of the first wave of pupils coming back to in-person classes in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation's fourth largest district.

Meanwhile, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber asked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to rethink his refusal to mandate masks statewide in light of President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump contracting the virus. Gelber also told the governor in a letter that local governments should be able to enforce mask requirements.

“The notion that we are still debating this seems incomprehensible given the recent infections of the First Family, and the horrific impact the virus has had on our own residents," Gelber wrote.

Florida on Sunday had more than 1,800 new reported coronavirus cases and more than 40 new related deaths. Florida now has had 716,459 total cases of the virus, and 14,845 related deaths.