As MAST Academy reverts to virtual learning, more South Florida schools confirm COVID-19 cases

MAST will reopen Tuesday, superintendent says

Local 10 | by Hatzel Vela and Amanda Batchelor | October 12, 2020

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – One public school in Miami-Dade County temporarily went back to virtual learning just a week after schools began reopening.

MAST Academy closed its campus Monday after two students tested positive for COVID-19. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the high school is planned to reopen Tuesday after “a deep sanitization.”

“In an abundance of caution and in consultation with the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade, schoolhouse instruction has pivoted to online learning to ensure that all individuals who came in close contact with the two students are notified, through the District’s school investigation and contact tracing protocols,” Miami-Dade County Public Schools spokeswoman Natalia Zea said in a statement. “The school has been thoroughly sanitized. The wellbeing of our students and employees is our top priority at Miami-Dade County Public Schools.”

MAST, however, isn’t alone with coronavirus cases.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ dashboard shows new cases at Flagami Elementary, Royal Green Elementary, North Dade Center for Modern Languages Elementary and two at Coral Park Elementary.

That’s in addition to schools Local 10 confirmed to have coronavirus cases last week.

Carvalho said that, as of Monday afternoon, 10 students and one employee in the school district have tested positive for the virus since physical schooling resumed. He said the dashboard reflects only cases confirmed by the local health department but that the district doesn’t wait for confirmation from the state to notify parents at those schools.

Some parents have voiced frustration about not receiving information sooner. A parent from Coral Reef High School told Local 10 News she found out about a potential case at the school because of an Instagram post that told student-athletes to stay home if they were told to quarantine.

Meanwhile, in Broward Couty, the Pembroke Pines Charter School System on Monday confirmed one case since classroom learning began last week.

When asked why MAST Academy was shut down after the COVID-19 cases, while other schools with positive cases have remained open, Zea noted that high schoolers are moving around more than others at school.

“High schools are larger and there is more movement of students (between classes, to/from cafeteria etc.) which means more individuals to notify in our contact tracing/school investigation process,” she said. “Additionally, due to the timing of this self-reported case it was decided that the best course of action in this particular situation was to temporarily pivot to My School Online.”

Carvalho noted the same, and he added that it would have been difficult to do adequate contact tracing between the time they learned of the infected students and reopening school on Monday morning.

“Recognizing that it was a significant number of students that had direct contact with these two students, it was virtually impossible to notify just those students Sunday,” Carvalho said. “Considering the day, Sunday, the time of the day when we completed the vetting process it would be virtually impossible to make contact with every one of the students’ families who had direct contact with these two students.”

Carvalho said there are about 800 students in attending school in person at MAST since they reopened.

The teachers union, United Teachers of Dade, posted a photo on social media last week of a group of MAST students walking tightly together down a hallway on campus.

“At least they are all walking in the same direction,” the post read.

UTD President Karla Hernandez-Mats said she believes the district made the right decision by closing down the campus.

While the source of the latest cases is still being determined, the union head said it’s possible an off-campus get together may be to blame.

“We did hear that it came possibly from a party that happened in Key Biscayne,” she said. “So, this is not the time to let our guard down.”

Hernandez-Mats said that she believes, moving forward, that anytime a school has two case or more, it should close the classrooms like MAST did.

Carvalho urged parents whose children get sick to call the school or their emergency hotline: 305-995-1550.

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