- Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent a letter to leaders at Miami-Dade County Public Schools demanding that they fully open for five days a week in-person learning by October 5, nearly two weeks ahead of schedule.
- If the district thinks that the deadline is not possible for their schools, they must send an analysis and plan explaining the reasons why for each school that will be delayed.
- The county initially planned to open schools starting September 30, but after a 29-hour school board meeting, opted to begin staggering students between October 14 and October 21.
- Miami-Dade is the epicenter of Florida’s outbreak and the fourth largest school district in the country. School officials believe opening their doors there could be dangerous.
State Orders Schools to Open Early
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran made an announcement Friday, ordering schools in Miami-Dade County to open for full in-person learning nearly two weeks ahead of schedule.
Miami-Dade has by far the largest coronavirus case count of any county in Florida. Because of its strong outbreak, it was one of few schools in the state allowed to open with remote learning instead of in-person classes. The district’s initial plan was to phase its students back from September 30 through October 7.
That window was bumped last week following a 29-hour school board meeting. The updated schedule was instead supposed to stagger students in between October 14 and October 21.
Now, Corcoran’s order puts that plan in jeopardy, writing in a letter that schools must be open on October 5. If the school board does not think it will be possible for schools open by then, they must submit an analysis for each school detailing why, and outlining issues and data for each school.
Florida state leaders, starting at the top with Gov. Ron DeSantis, have been insistent that schools in the state reopen quickly. As for why Corcoran felt compelled to move Miami-Dade’s plans up, he wrote that they were behind schedule compared to other at-risk counties. He also said their choice to delay reopening contradicted the plan they submitted to the state and clashed with the fact that the county has already been in Phase 2 of reopening, which allows schools to open, for two weeks.
He also wrote that delaying in-person instruction harms students who require special instruction or other services provided by schools, as well as students who might be experiencing violence, abuse, or food insecurity at home. Corcoran also claimed that it was unfair to parents who were eager to get their students back in class, but the desire parents have to get their kids back to school is not overwhelming. According to the Washington Post, a poll taken among parents in the county shows they are split on the issue, with 51% wanting their kids in physical classes, and the rest wanting to keep learning remotely.
The district’s superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, said that their choice to push back in-person learning gave the school board “additional time to redouble our efforts in terms of ensuring all protocols are what they are expected to be.”
The choice was supported by many in the community, as well as the teachers’ union, the United Teachers of Dade. After Corcoran sent out his letter demanding in-person learning be moved back up, the UTD’s president, Karla Hernandez-Mats, put out a statement condemning his order.
“We are the fourth largest school district in the country with an on-boarding of almost 400,000 students and teachers in the epicenter of the virus in Florida,” she wrote. “Those parameters require a much more thoughtful approach which is why the school board voted to push back the reopening and implement a staggered start. We cannot risk suffering the consequences of a rushed return to class when we know our buildings are not yet ready.”
Hernandez-Mats fears that if the reopening is rushed, the county could face another lockdown. She also fears that voting for the upcoming presidential election could be in jeopardy if there is another large outbreak. She was not the only official shocked by the state’s order. Miami-Dade’s school board president Perla Tabares Hantman told the Miami Herald she found Corcoran’s letter to be “strange.”
“I think it took everyone by surprise. I’m very much in favor of opening schools but when it’s safe,” she said.
What Happens Next?
Fears that opening schools could be unsafe are valid in the state of Florida. In early September, after many schools in the state had been forced to open their doors, The Washington Post reported that many schools had to temporarily shut down because of outbreaks. There was also a 34% increase in cases among school-aged children.
The Miami-Dade School Board will hold an emergency meeting to discuss their next steps on Tuesday. Any letter proposing they keep their delay must be sent to the state by October 2.
Miami-Dade was also not the only county to receive this kind of letter from Corcoran. Broward County, which also has one of the largest outbreaks in the state, received a similar order. School officials have already responded, writing in a letter that they plan to keep their reopening plans as-is for the safety of their community.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (Miami Herald) (NBC Miami)
Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”
- Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
- The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot.
- So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Florida Requires Proof of Residency
Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.
Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it.
According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers.
Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited
Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north.
“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)
Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”
- Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
- Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
- Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.
Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet
Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017.
Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony.
“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”
Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.
“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”
What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”
Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing.
“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”
“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”
Nation Impressed by Gorman
“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”
Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration.
Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation.
Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day.
See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)
SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section
- The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June.
- The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
- Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary.
- It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.
College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay
College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.
Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”
The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary.
While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S.
Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.
With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.
The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test
In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.
In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.
According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.
For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April.