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They hit the ground running today in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
The nation’s fourth-largest school district flung open its doors Wednesday to welcome about 330,000 students and 17,000 teachers back to school. At a news conference this afternoon, Dr. Jose Dotres said that much to his relief, there were no major issues to report on his first opening day as the superintendent.
“So we did an assessment, and we feel that it has been a very, very smooth opening of school,” Dotres said.
Dotres toured several schools, starting with Hialeah Gardens Senior High School. The band and cheerleaders created a pep rally feel for students walking in through the main entrance. The principal, Maritza Jimenez, said there’s a sense of optimism that this school year will be more like pre-pandemic campus life.
“They’re having what you call a traditional high school experience, from day one, they get to be in sports, they’re involved in extracurricular activities, especially the performing groups that you saw here this morning,” Jimenez said.
Dotres said he could see the difference between now and then, between the energy he saw today versus last school year.
“When you walk this building, all you saw were students that were excited, interacting with each other in very friendly ways, the seniors with their crowns, so that’s the type of feeling that you want to have in a school, right?” Dotres said.
He stopped at the newly-built Comstock Elementary School, with its $17 million building paid for with bond money.
“It’s very impressive, you come to this community, and you see a brand-new building,” Dotres said.
Third-grade teacher Alison Quintana told us having all her students in the classroom will pay big academic dividends.
“You’re able to provide what they need here in person, in a small group, so it definitely makes a difference,” Quintana said.
“Our goal is to continue the path of attending to the unfinished learning, so we made a lot of progress in terms of academic recovery, that does not mean that we are where we need to be,” Dotres said.
The challenge now for the district is to turn a strong start into a strong finish nine months from now. To do that, as Dotres said, they have to get the kids who fell behind academically up to the standards they need to reach. That starts in the classroom, and Dotres said on day one, there was a certified teacher in every classroom, along with a driver for each of the 778 school bus routes. However, the district is still hiring more drivers and more teachers.
So the challenge for the district now is to make sure a strong start leads to a strong finish nine months from now, working hard to get kids who fell behind academically up to where they should be.