FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - The stunning surge in COVID-19 cases has South Florida schools changing course.
As South Florida students head back to school, the Food and Drug Administration has given a booster shot the green light for kids 12-15, the youngest age group to receive approval for a third Pfizer shot so far.
Meanwhile, COVID hit districts hard across school districts here. More than 3,000 employees as of Monday are out with COVID forcing a staff shuffle and policy changes.
Classes resumed Monday, and school administrators made the decision to require some to wear masks at all times.
In Miami-Dade, all adults who enter a school building must be masked starting Monday.
“I’m glad that we have that new thing come out that all teachers are going to be required [to wear a mask],” said a student.
While students are not required to wear masks, they are encouraged to do so.
“Our ability to maintain schools open depends on health conditions, and those health conditions are mitigated on the basis of personal regulation,” said Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
In spite of bus driver shortages, students could be seen arriving on school campuses Monday morning following the Christmas holiday.
Many students are happy about the change.
“Friends of friends and all of my sibling friend groups have gotten it,” one student said. “I’m glad that we had that new thing come out that all teachers are gonna be required.”
“All hands on deck, a community effort to stop the spread of this virus,” Carvalho said.
“It’s inconvenient, it’s uncomfortable, but we have to protect ourselves, our children,” said parent Russell Volynes.
At Broward County schools, face coverings are now mandatory for all vendors and visitors.
Masks for teachers and staff will remain optional.
The district is also battling staff shortages.
“We had a little over 1,600 individuals that were calling out sick due to COVID,” said Broward County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright. “We were able to fill a little over 500 of those places. Now, that includes not just teachers, but across the entire organization.”
As for Catholic schools, the Archdiocese of Miami said masks will be a must for students and employees.
“If it’s gonna keep us safe and keep our kids safe, I’m good with it,” one parent said.
“We of course give parents the option, if you think that’s something that’s good,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
On Sunday, the Miami-Dade school system gave out upwards of 10,000 free at-home test kits for employees and their families.
“This situation is very worrying, and I want to keep safe and I want to work with my children,” said Blanca Gonzalez who received an at-home test kit.
“Obviously, the more people that test, the safer we’re going to be,” said Cindy Delmarmol who received an at-home test kit.
Teachers heading back to class hope that mask changes, along with this easier way to test, will be the difference between safety and getting sick.
“Obviously, we don’t want to be exposed to COVID, and we don’t want to expose anybody else, and so I think the more people that do this, the safer we’re all going to be,” said Delmarmol.
Leftover kits will be given to Miami-Dade adult education centers to be distributed to students and teachers.
In Broward County, 96 bus routes Monday morning were doubled up due to a bus driver shortage. As for teachers, school district officials said that they will double up on classrooms as well if they have to in order to make sure each student has a teacher.
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