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The Path Forward: K-12 Schools

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The Path Forward: K-12 Schools

MR. SCOTT: Good afternoon. I'm Eugene Scott, a politics reporter for The Fix at The Washington Post, and welcome to Washington Post Live. Right now, with us we have Lily García. She is the president of the National Education Association, the largest teachers' union in the country. And Ms. García, right now, is pretty outraged at how the Trump administration is responding to schools and education and the challenges that they are facing related to the coronavirus pandemic.

As you may know, the administration has insisted that schools reopen with in-class instruction this fall. Her comments come as National Education Association individuals have released their own guidelines on what they think should happen before students, teachers, and staff walk back into school.

So today we'll go over all of these topics as well as how schools are going to have to pay for all of the changes they will have to continue to make to keep everyone safe. Please welcome Lily García. How are you today?

MS. ESKELSEN GARCÍA: I'm so happy to be here.

MR. SCOTT: Good. We're so glad to have you. So glad to have you. And I know you have a lot of thoughts and we certainly want to hear some of them. And let's just start with this. If Congress does not enact, 1.9 million educators will be forced to continue to begin the school year as if nothing has changed, as if things are normal. And I would like your initial responses to that. What do you think should happen?

MS. ESKELSEN GARCÍA: We all left our school buildings in March as if someone pulled the fire alarm in, you know, 100,000 schools all over the country, and everyone grabbed what they could off their desks and headed out the door. Why? Because we're in a pandemic. Because they said the worst place you could be is in a closed, poorly ventilated place where people are packed inside, breathing on each other. And we have to stop contaminating each other. That's the best we've got until we have a vaccine.

So we all left. Families around the country have sacrificed. Educators have sacrificed. Many have lost their jobs because they couldn't do what they do virtually. And now, from the day we left our school buildings, we've been planning on what we would have to do to get back to school safely.

We were looking at all the advice that the Centers for Disease Control, the infectious disease experts were saying about opening a restaurant safely. You're going to have to distance. You can open but at 50 percent capacity. You need masks. You need disinfectants. You're going to have to ventilate these places better, maybe move the chairs outside. All of those things.

And we were waiting and waiting. All right, so what's the advice for us so we can start planning for what we're going to have to buy, what we're going to have to do. And finally, we got CDC advice, and it's very, very similar to opening any closed space.

But what, I think, really surprised us is Donald Trump, who hasn't said two words about public schools in the last three and a half years all of a sudden, very cavalierly, while we were trying to say "How are we going to distance kids? Are we going to do a hybrid, some at home, half day, every other day? Which kids would we prioritize coming into the school if we can't fit all the kids into the schools safely?" We were carefully working with school boards, health inspectors, parents of special ed children, all of the needs we have to meet, and the president of the United States waves his hand and commands us, "You will go back into those schools, all day, all kids, all the time, next to each other, shoulder to shoulder." I had 39 sixth-graders in a class one year. That was not healthy before a pandemic. And "we may or may not give you what you need to disinfect and mask.

So, Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump, without a plan, just saying, "Just do it" has truly outraged parents and educators, and people who love their neighborhood kids. It's outrageous.

MR. SCOTT: I imagine you've been in conversations with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle about what you would like to see happen before schools reopen. What have some of those conversations and negotiations revealed?

MS. ESKELSEN GARCÍA: You know, I am a really super good sixth-grade teacher. I am not an infectious disease specialist. And so, I know what I know and I know what I don't know. I rely on the experts, the Dr. Faucis of the world, to tell us what we need to do to be safe. So again, we were very concerned when the CDC published their guidelines, and what we heard from Donald Trump was, "Well, that's going to cost a lot of money. Buy disinfectants and masks? Wait a minute. We don't want to pay for something." So, he pretty much told them to go back and do their homework again.

So, what we got in the reissued guidelines, yeah, they were wrapped around it's important for kids to be back in school. Yes, we know that. That's what we're trying to do. Nobody wants their kids back more than their teachers, except maybe their parents. We want to do it safely. That's our word. Safely.

And what they did was they said, okay, they took out the language that said, "Children with health issues are more at risk." They took that out and put in "may be more at risk." So they watered some of it down. There's still not a lot about the risk of teachers and support staff in opening schools. That's disturbing. It makes us feel like we're expendable or maybe intentionally being punished.

But what I want the public to know is the science was still intact. He didn't get the scientists to actually reverse on the fact that baseline, before any schools should open--and it's the same thing that the Republican National Convention had to look at when they decided to cancel their in-person convention plans in Florida--you have to look at the infection rate in your community. Is it under control? Has it been steadily declining so that you've got it under control?

Once you're in a community like that--and there are some, not a lot, but there are some communities that have been steadily in decline--then you have to have a plan to distance your kids so they're not in there, crammed shoulder-to-shoulder, coughing on each other. You've got to have the masks, the disinfectants, the sanitizing station. You've got to have daily health screenings, and you have to have access to COVID testing so you can see who might be infected.

And most important--and this is the kicker--you don't get to pick and choose "I'll do this one but not that one." You have to do them all or you put lives at risk. That's what we're--if you do it wrong, your school becomes your community super-spreader. You become a germ factory, and you will spike, just like when they opened those bars, and everyone jammed into the bars and went home and infected their families. We're not going to have that happen in a public school.

MR. SCOTT: So, it seems like whether or not a school is safe enough to return to varies based off of what is happening in a particular community?

MS. ESKELSEN GARCÍA: Exactly, and that's what the scientists and the doctors have said. When Donald Trump threw out, you know, "Well, look at Denmark and Australia and Germany and Norway. They all opened their schools." Yeah, they opened their schools based on these guidelines, and the very first thing they did is they took the pandemic seriously. They actually said, "We have to get this infection rate under control," and they had a national plan. It wasn't a city here or a state there. It was a national plan. We still don't have a national plan and look at where it's led to.

So, if those countries did it and did it successfully, it's because they did the exact opposite of what this administration has done.

MR. SCOTT: Now we know that the NEA released its own guidelines on the reopening of schools, and I believe your guidance is based on four principles--health expertise, educator voice, access to protection, like PPE, and leading with equity. So, can you explain a bit about what those four principles mean for students and their parents?

MS. ESKELSEN GARCÍA: Let me start with the first one, because it's so important that we lead with equity. One of the things that we've been saying for years and years and years is that the way that we have funded and resourced our public school system is really based on your ZIP code, what those kids have access to. So, if you're in a very wealthy community, you probably have lots of programs, and a librarian, a lot of counselors, and a school nurse. In some schools that's like finding a unicorn. You don't have those things. You've got the bare necessities, and maybe you've got the oldest school building that's got poor ventilation in it.

So as kids left those buildings that we knew were not equal, we also now know their homes don't have access to what they need to distance learn. For some kids, Mom and Dad are able to work from a laptop at home--they've got those kinds of jobs. They've got an extra iPad. They've got Wi-Fi in their home. It's annoying and inconvenient, but for some kids it's impossible, because Mom and Dad work in a service industry, and sometimes they're gone before those kids wake up in the morning. They don't--they've got like maybe a cellphone, a smartphone, and that's the technology they've got and they have to take it with them to work.

So, we have kids we couldn't even call on the phone. And so, one of the things we asked, as Congress is moving through these support bills, is we said very likely many schools, especially in our poorest communities, our poorest communities are still, unfortunately, high minority, black and brown communities, immigrant communities. And these kids need something at home. And we asked for billions of dollars in the E-Rate bill to help pay for hotspots and tablets for these kids, because we might have to hybrid or virtual learn a little bit longer while we're waiting for the infection rate to come down.

And that's leading with equity, saying who gets it first is the one who needs it the most, the ones that won't have any plan B at home if they don't get it from their public schools. So that's the first thing that we're asking for, is that our kids who live in the most challenged communities and the most challenged situations, will be seen as our priority.

MR. SCOTT: As you have articulated, many educators are so disappointed with how the administration is handling this situation, the educating of our youth amidst this pandemic. And some unions have suggested that they will be striking, that they will not be participating in the school year in a traditional sense. And I'm really interested in hearing what the NEA's response to that is.

MS. ESKELSEN GARCÍA: Disappointed doesn't begin to cover how alarmed we are. And let me tell you, job one for us is that whole blessed child. There have been some people who have suggested, "But look at, you know, they're losing academic time." Yeah, we know. We're in an emergency. It's a pandemic. We know, and we are worried about our kids.

There are other folks who have said, "What about their social-emotional needs? They need to be in that school with their friends. They're feeling the stress and the trauma," and we understand that too. We're all feeling the stress and the trauma of this bizarre world we're living in right now.

And then there is their physical health. Anyone that suggests that we have to pick and choose, or we have to trade off their academic learning, and yes, some might die. No. No. That's a false choice. It is the whole child. And as Donald Trump has mentioned, other countries have done this without ever asking this question--and you're a very good reporter. I absolutely believe that. I have been asked by very good reporters that very same question. You know, shouldn't we weigh off these other things, and if we have to sacrifice some of their health or sacrifice their teachers or sacrifice their families they may go home and infect--no one who did this successfully asked that question, because from the very beginning there was a plan to do it safely, where it was appropriate, when it was appropriate, with all of the supplies and things you needed to make it happen. That's what we're asking.

And when anyone says the word "strike," we're talking about opening schools when it's safe. And I think the first people you need to ask are the parents. Are parents willing to sacrifice their children so that Donald Trump can get his jobs numbers up? Because he's made it very clear opening those schools, on a hybrid, every-other-day, doesn't work for him because what he wants is all the kids out of the house. Why? So, Mom and Dad can go back to work, so that he can look better in an economic report.

We believe that even that will fail, and that you don't sacrifice one child. You don't sacrifice one teacher. You don't sacrifice their families for something like that. It will backfire eventually anyway. Look what happened when we opened the bars because we didn't have a plan. We're not going to sacrifice our children, and we're not going to sacrifice our communities. We're going to do this right.

MR. SCOTT: So, speaking about the different challenges that different kids face, we've got an audience question from Scott Semansion from New Mexico. He asks, "How can we ensure that children with special needs don't get left behind through remote learning?"

MS. ESKELSEN GARCÍA: Oh, that is an excellent question, and again, some of the places that are already in the middle of all these plannings--we were not waiting for Betsy DeVos to come up with a plan for us. That was not going end well, under any circumstances. So, in thousands and thousands of school districts across the country right now, the districts that are putting together the best plans are the ones that are including the stakeholders that have the most at stake. And so, they've got the school nurse. They've got the special ed parent. They've got the county health professional. They've got them all sitting down saying--and let's take this example--here is a child with special needs. Some of them are cognitive needs. Some of them are children who are medically fragile. They're the last ones you would want stuffed in an overcrowded classroom. But you can't ignore the fact that they have very special trained professionals working with these kids that parents may not be able to replicate or even attempt to replicate back in the classroom.

So as we look at who will be at a priority of coming back, before you open up the school to everyone you might be looking at saying, again, leading with equity, who are the kids that need us the most, and how can we arrange this physical classroom to protect the health of these students, and their teachers, and their paraprofessionals, and the school nurse or the adults that will need to be in that school first, to deal with our most vulnerable children.

There is no one size fits all. It may look very, very different in a small, rural school than in an inner-city school or in a suburban school. Some of our schools we know had a lot of resources before the pandemic, and they're starting at a higher level of maybe a more modern building, maybe more technology in the building, and some schools that started with very, very little, and now they have even less.

So what we're saying is, you look at the kids who need us the most and you plan for them specifically. If it is not safe for those children to come back into the school building then that's a nonstarter for us. We don't say, "We've got to do it anyway, even if it's not safe." No. We will meet those children's needs where they are, and we have to plan around them, starting with these children who need us the most first.

MR. SCOTT: Awesome. Lastly, I just have one more question. How can you work with parents to ensure that they're following social distancing guidelines at home, when some parents just don't necessarily believe the science or support the news that's coming out telling them how to be safe?

MS. ESKELSEN GARCÍA: Well, and, of course, our parents have very diverse opinions about what's going on as well. We believe that you have to tend to the medical science that we're dealing with. That's the basic for us. That's the foundation before you open that school. And in the CDC guidelines, that's another thing they watered down, is they basically originally said that there had to be the regular screenings. There should be testing. There should be ways of telling if kids have a fever, a cough, or the adults as well, and that we should have COVID testing available to us in the same way that emergency medical folks in a hospital go to the front of the line, to make sure that their health is good as they go into a situation where they're dealing with folks who are desperately ill. And, by the way, not just COVID folks. Folks who got hurt in a car accident. They are dealing with life and death situations.

We will be dealing with this country's most precious resource, students. And so, they watered down the CDC requirements. They took off there need to be health tests at the school and said, "No, no, no. The parents should do that at home, and we should just trust that it's being done." And it may be done very, very well by some parents. And as I said, some parents are off to work before their kids get up in the morning. We know parents that don't own a thermometer. It's so important that we do these health screenings. And there was absolutely nothing in the guidelines about having COVID tests, and having those COVID tests come back in a timely manner. If there's one case in a school, we might need to close that school down again, like that.

We don't want to be in that position. We want to do it right. We want to protect the health of the big people and the little people in that school community, by that way. That means that we protect the health of the families they go home to. And those families go to work. We don't want to become the super-spreader in a community and end up with a spike and having everything close down, because we did it in a sloppy way, because we weren't intentional about how we do it. And that's why this is so important that we do it right the first time.

MR. SCOTT: Well thank you so much for talking with us, Ms. García, and sharing your thoughts. We will continue to keep our eyes on what is happening on this issue, with this issue, from your organization and the administration, and keep our readers posted and informed on what's going on. Thanks.

MS. ESKELSEN GARCÍA: Thank you.

MR. SCOTT: Next we want to take this time to speak with Alberto Carvalho, who is the superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools, to learn more about how administrators and educators and the fourth-largest school system in the country are responding to the issue of needing to educate America's children during a pandemic.

[Video plays.]

MR. SCOTT: Hi. Welcome back to Washington Post Live. We are here to talk about the pandemic and how it's affecting public education, and we listen to experts in the field give us their thoughts on how best to respond to this issue that is occupying the minds of so many families and people connected to these families.

Right now, we'd like to speak with Alberto Carvalho, who is the superintendent of the Miami-Dade Public Schools, which is the fourth-largest school district in America, just to hear his thoughts on how best families and educators can respond to this issue.

Thanks for having us--or thanks for coming and allowing us to have this opportunity to speak with you.

MR. CARVALHO: Thank you very much for the opportunity, Eugene. Good afternoon to all.

MR. SCOTT: So, when you first think about what's happening related to the push and the insistence upon educating schools--students by reopening schools this fall, what is your initial reaction?

MR. CARVALHO: Well, number one, we need to lead with one priority, which is the health and well-being not only of our students but our workforce, and recognize that where we sit right now, Miami, is one of the hottest COVID-19 spots in the country. So I've listened carefully to what our leaders have said, whether it is guidance from the CDC, pronouncements from the White House, or statements from Tallahassee, and I am, quite frankly, somewhat heartened that, of late, we've heard a slightly different message, one that says that while the country, as a whole, may be experiencing low levels of community transmission, there are certain ZIP codes, there are certain states or communities where the level of positivity is extremely high. And Miami-Dade happens to be one of those.

So, we are currently relying on a plan to reopen the school process based on a number of options. We have surveyed our parents. We had a very successful seamless transition during the last quarter of last year from traditional schooling to online remote learning, because at our level of preparedness we had made significant investments in devices and connectivity. So, we reached 100 percent connectivity with an average of 91, 92 percent daily attendance. Now I grant you there were a number of unengaged students that we need to be very concerned with, particularly those students who, since that time, will have gone 25 weeks without necessarily the type of support that they ordinarily would get.

But we are relying right now on a very evolving virus right here in our community. We are relying on scientific data. With a positivity rate of over 18 percent, with an ICU capacity exceeding 130 percent, an increased mortality statewide, we are not like the rest of America. I'm sure there are a lot of districts that are at positivity rates of less than 5 percent, where it is absolutely appropriate to return teachers and students to school, but we are not there yet.

MR. SCOTT: So, what do the numbers need to look like for you to be okay with classroom instruction resuming in a safe way?

MR. CARVALHO: Well, that's one of the most important questions and it is one that, quite frankly, I'm not qualified to answer. That's why I convened a panel of distinguished medical experts and public health experts, including, you know, the head of pediatrics for the University of Miami, including a former surgeon general of the United States of America, including an entity who works for the medical school for Florida International University. And they reached a unanimous consensus around what the game criteria should be.

Look, let's begin with positivity rates. World health standards put that positivity rate at 10 percent prior to reopening schools. The original CDC guideline, as well as the original White House guideline for the reopening of America's schools put it at 5 percent. So, one of the criteria we're following is less than 10 percent positivity rate, reaching towards 5 percent.

Secondly, a 14-day decrease in the total number of hospitalizations, a 14-consecutive-day decrease in the number of, or the capacity for ICU beds in local hospitals; better, more expedited availability of testing and much faster returns; better, more effective and efficient contact tracing. The reason why we need the test results much faster is if it takes 7 to 10 days to obtain a test result than the effectiveness of contact tracing is not going to be what it needs to be for us to safely reopen schools. Those are some of the metrics and criteria that our local experts recommended to as, quite frankly, formatting the basis for safely opening of physical schooling in Miami-Dade.

MR. SCOTT: When reflecting on the CDC guidelines for reopening, do you worry that those guidelines were formed or revised following pressure from the Trump administration?

MR. CARVALHO: Look, I'm not necessarily going to comment on the possibility that politics is influencing science. What I can tell you is that in Miami-Dade, this is a community, an educational community that's guided by scientific data, medical advice.

I was well acquainted with the original CDC guidelines. We have reviewed carefully the revised CDC guidelines. Our reopening plan matches ably to either set, and quite frankly, the revised CDC guidelines reference, via links, the vast majority of the original guidelines.

So, I think we need to use prudence, need to use local data, local circumstances, and make decisions that are reflective of local concern and the best medical advice and public health expert advice that we can get. So, both sets of CDC guidelines provide recommendations to the nation, but even the last revision, it is clear there is a mention there, in districts and areas where there is substantial controlled or uncontrolled community spread, decisions must be made, in collaboration, and informed by the local Health Department. And as long as that flexibility is there, that offers our local district to make informed decisions on the basis of conditions in Miami-Dade, rather than average conditions nationally, I think we're protecting our students and our workforce.

MR. SCOTT: It's very clear that different communities are being affected differently, and perhaps some are more prepared to resume things than others. And perhaps none are incredibly prepared to just go ahead as usual this fall as if they would in previous years.

But most recently, I believe last Friday, Governor DeSantis said, on Fox News, that teachers in Florida were itching to get back into the classroom as soon as possible. Is that what you've heard from your educators?

MR. CARVALHO: Well, I think every single educator that I know, every single principal, every single teacher, myself included, I think we're anxious to return kids back to schools, but when conditions are appropriate, when environmental conditions in our individual communities allow it to be done in a safe and responsible way. And the only way to ascertain that is by following public health guidelines, medical expert guidelines that are specific to our communities.

And I agree that every single educator, not only in the state of Florida but across the country, is itching, is anxious to be reconnected with their children. We recognize that in-person teaching, that organic exchange of cognitive ability to impact kids but also allowing for the appropriate social and emotional development, taking into account mental health, providing all the support, the needs that our children have, that's what every single educator wants to do. But at what risk? And should we ignore local conditions?

That's why, as I said, we feel, here in Miami-Dade, there continues to be flexibility in the guidance for us to absolutely observe local conditions, observe the local metrics, listen to the experts, and make decisions that are in the best interest of our children. Every educator wants to be reconnected with their children. However, that comes with a significant caveat--under what conditions will there be assurances that the contact tracing that is necessary, that the availability of testing, and the swiftness with which test results are available will be in place.

So, there are a number of hurdles to be overcome, but that does not at all negate the wish, the will that teachers and educators across America have to be reunited with their kids.

And by the way, the question continues to be asked of educators. Quite frankly, the best way to return kids back to school is to have the communities across America observe the recommendations, maintain the social distancing, washing their hands periodically, wearing their masks. And that's very difficult to do when there are political pronouncements about wearing a mask, which is a defense mechanism that should bother no one.

So, to the extent that communities take these recommendations seriously and the COVID positivity rate is lowered, the better the chance of us actually having a safe return to physical schooling.

MR. SCOTT: You spoke about the need for school districts to have flexibility based on what's happening in their communities, and also about the challenges of navigating this moment, given all the political pressures various parties and individuals are putting forward. What is it that you think politicians don't understand about perhaps the challenge of educating kids in this moment, regarding social distancing and often having to, you know, enforce masks and other strategies to keep kids safe? What is it that you think lawmakers could stand to be more informed about when it comes to educating kids during a pandemic?

MR. CARVALHO: Well, I think lawmakers and community leaders at all levels of government, quite frankly, are trying to strike a balance. And sometimes it may be a fair balance and sometimes it may be an unfair balance. And the balance is between doing what's right by kids while, at the same time, stimulating the economy. And to not admit that, it's really a fallacy.

You know, I'm responsible for educating children. I'm responsible for their well-being. I'm responsible for their health. I'm responsible for protecting my workforce. So yes, I am cognizant that the normalization of society cannot be fully achieved without resuming physical schooling, but we need to question, we need to ask ourselves, what is the threshold of pain and price that we're willing to pay to reach that normalization, and how quick should we be leading toward it, forgetting the advice of medical experts?

So, what I can tell you is that there should be no discussion about what medicine tells us. There should be no discussion or doubting about what science tells us. We could have a discussion about policies, practices, but not hard scientific data that comes from experts who actually know these subject matters.

So, you know, my urging to elected officials is, you know, let's, if nothing else, let's rally around objective data. Let's recognize that there isn't a one-size-fits-all to reopening America's schools, because not every state, not every community is at the same level of risk. There are hotspots and there are cool spots across the country, and enforcing a one-size-fits-all reopening plan disregards local conditions.

So, my advice to elected officials would be recognize the geographic differences and the environmental differences across the country, even sometimes within a state. Conditions in Miami-Dade, in the Deep South, conditions in Broward and Palm Beach Counties are very different from conditions currently in the Panhandle. So, the reopening plan needs to be flexible enough to allow for decisions that are reflective of the environmental conditions in our respective regions.

MR. SCOTT: So earlier this month, President Trump tweeted that he might consider withholding funding from schools that did not reopen. If you lost any funding because you didn't reopen, because you didn't feel like it was safe enough to do so, how would that impact your bottom line?

MR. CARVALHO: Look, Eugene, I think it would be a sad day in America if we were to put the kids who were in crisis before the COVID crisis in greater jeopardy. And the reason why I say that is look at the type of federal funding that's provided across America. These are, by and large, entitlement revenues that support children in poverty through Title 1, support the English language learners through Title 3, support children with disabilities through IDEA. If we were to somehow starve districts on a basis of decisions that were made with the best interests of the students in mind, if we were to starve districts from the federal funding that their children are eligible for and depend on it would further deepen the crisis that these children face simply because of their circumstances.

So, it makes no sense whatsoever to me to deepen the crisis for kids who were in crisis to begin with and continue to be in crisis. I am, quite frankly, more interested in hearing the additional K-12 federal support that needs to be approved, considering the fact that this health crisis will usher in, no doubt, a fiscal crisis the likes of which our nation may not yet have seen, maybe even deeper than the 2008-2009 economic recession, which I lived through.

So, I hope that, quite frankly, that compassion and understanding prevail, and we don't engage in federal punitive practices by ignoring local circumstances and local conditions in districts by depriving them of much-needed revenues that impact the most fragile of children in our nation.

MR. SCOTT: You spoke earlier about access and how so many students across the country would be challenged if their school districts lost funding. And I know your school district gave out more than 119,000 electronic devices since the start of the pandemic. Do you think that will be enough? Is there a need for more? How do you ensure that students who are in homes with limited internet access, if any access at all, stay on top of their education, moving forward?

MR. CARVALHO: You know, before this pandemic really hit our shores we had been preparing. We began tracking the news out of China back in January. We began building our instructional continuity plan in February. By the time we shut down our schools in March not only did we have an instructional continuity plan that reflected accountability, attendance, academic performance, not only had we trained teachers, but we had surveyed all of our parents to understand what the critical technology needs would be at home. Did they have a device? Did they have connectivity? What type of device did they have? What kind of connectivity did they have?

So, we had a well-informed database of information about our students and our parents. That's why we very quickly were able to provide a device to every single parent that needed it. In areas where there were digital deserts, no access to Wi-Fi or internet, we provided hotspots. So yes, 120,000 devices in addition to about 10,000 hotspots for parents who needed it.

We have continued to do our work during the summer to actually improve the experience, not only the platform experience from the vantage of teachers and parents, but we've already considered and are in the process of replacing some of the devices to account for damage or loss. We made a critical decision to leave, actually, devices in the hands of the students throughout the summer. Why? It provides us a portal of access to the children and their families, not only the students but the parents through our Parent Academy, to begin the educational process yet again.

By the way, we're not waiting for the fall to start that process, because I am a believer that the academic regression, the learning loss level as a result of this pandemic, as a result of the closure of last year and then the summer, is going to be tremendous. Never seen anything like this. That's why we built two summer virtual experiences for students, targeting those who needed the most help, and that's why we are reopening the schooling process with the most fragile children in mind, and I can assure you, Miami-Dade, on day one, will ensure every single student is connected, every single student has a device, every single student and parent will have gone to a week-long preparation program for the technology, the platform, the digital content, but also the expectations as far as attendance, accountability, and academic performance.

MR. SCOTT: So, we know that different students learn differently and that students with special needs were very much used to having a process in place tailored to their learning style before the pandemic began. How can we ensure, once schools reopen, that students with special needs are having their needs met educationally?

MR. CARVALHO: So that's been one of the most crucial, critical, and, quite frankly, difficult elements of remote teaching, certainly last quarter. As a school system, like many school systems across America, we provided supplemental materials. We provided adaptive applications to address the needs of students.

But look, as you correctly said, an IEP varies from child to child. They do have legal rights that from a distance, in many cases, are difficult to meet. For that very severely disabled child who requires therapy on an ongoing basis. For that very severely disabled child who requires a one-to-one paraprofessional. Those are very difficult services to provide via distance.

Now we continue to make adaptations throughout the summer, to really enhance the student experience, for those who will start the new school year online and who may have a disability. But we hope, depending on conditions, to supplement those online experiences--which, again, are personalized, they're adaptive, and often supplemented with additional materials. But we hope, based on improved conditions, that those will be the first students in line to have access to physical schooling, to resume some degree of normalcy and some degree of enhanced services that legally, morally, and ethically they need and deserve.

MR. SCOTT: Superintendent Carvalho, we appreciate greatly you taking time to talk with us and to keep us informed on what you and your staffs are trying to do to respond to this moment, to the best benefit of your students. So, thanks for coming out and talking with us.

MR. CARVALHO: Thank you very much for the opportunity.

MR. SCOTT: Sure. Coming up tomorrow, join my colleague, Frances Stead Sellers, for an important conversation about COVID-19, what you need to know and what you should do. And later this week, two vice presidential hopefuls, Rep. Val Demings and Senator Tammy Duckworth, will be joining us.

Thanks for watching and we'll hear back with you soon.

[End recorded session.]

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