‘What might follow’ election keeps these Miami private school students home Wednesday

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Miami Herald | by Colleen Wright | November 3, 2020

At least one of Miami’s private schools decided to keep students learning from home Wednesday out of concerns for “what may follow” Tuesday’s presidential election.

Miami Country Day School, a Miami Shores-area private school serving students Pre-k through 12th grade, notified parents Monday night in an email that all middle and high school students will learn online Wednesday “for what could manifest here in Miami.”

“In preparation for tomorrow’s election and what might follow, school leadership – including Director of Security, Joe Conner – have been in close contact with local and federal law enforcement to better understand and plan for what could manifest here in Miami,” wrote President and Head of School Mariandl Hufford.

Students in elementary grades were already off Wednesday for parent-teacher conferences.

In an email, Country Day’s director of marketing and communications, Paula Montoya, said the school decided to cancel in-person classes Wednesday out of an abundance of caution following the election. In recent days, several governors have ordered their National Guard units to be on standby in the event of post-election violence and businesses have boarded up storefronts.

“We have no specific reason to be concerned for our school community, but we believe in taking the necessary precautions when it comes to safety – especially during these times,” Montoya wrote.

“We are fortunate to live here in Miami, but both our city and state are undoubtedly politically contested, which adds an additional feeling of uncertainty. We did not want to ignore the fact that the ultimate election decision, and surrounding news and events, may cause angst for many of our families and faculty – no matter the outcome.”

Hufford also said in her email that high school students will stay online from Wednesday through the end of the week because of COVID concerns.

“We have grown increasingly concerned that some of our Upper School students and families have not been reporting positive cases and/or exposure to others who have tested positive for COVID-19, which means we cannot accurately conduct contact tracing when required,” Hufford wrote.

In-person classes for high school students will resume Monday, but all high school students must produce a negative COVID-19 test to return to campus.

Montoya said the school made that decision after learning about off-campus activities that may have led to COVID-19 exposure.

“We have not had any on-campus transmission to date, and we very much want to keep it that way,” Montoya said. “We have no reason to believe that anyone who has followed our protocols on campus was exposed.”

Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Edwin Lopez was busy Tuesday monitoring 196 schools used as voting sites. That’s about half of the district’s roughly 400 public schools.

Lopez said security issues were discussed with local and state officials, but said there were no signs that schools will be impacted following the election.

“At this time, there’s no indication that schools will be impacted one way or the other based on the results of the election,” he said.

Miami-Dade school district spokeswoman Jackie Calzadilla wrote in an email that schools police is closely collaborating with local, state and national law enforcement entities and has not identified any credible threats that would impact schools Wednesday.

“MDSPD will remain on heightened alert and will continue to monitor the situation,” she said, adding that there are no reported issues at Miami-Dade public schools used as polling sites.

Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, a Pre-K through 12th grade all-girls Catholic school in Coconut Grove, also told their high school students to learn from home Wednesday, though younger students will be in school. But the decision was not related to the election, said Head of School Olen Kalkus.

In an email, Kalkus explained that about a month ago, the school began discussing having some virtual Wednesdays to give teachers a break from hybrid teaching (teaching physical and online students simultaneously). He said teachers will be coming in to school to teach their classes virtually while also having the opportunity to meet with colleagues during their free periods and lunch.

Kalkus said the school decided to pilot this with their high school once a month on the first Wednesday of each month, and that Nov. 4 was the first Wednesday after the decision, which was coincidental with the election. He also said students who stay up late to follow the election will be able to sleep in a little as they do not have to drive to school.

“Once we made the decision to go ahead and pilot it, we were aware that some might interpret it as related to the election,” he wrote. “We decided to go ahead, anyway. The election will be talked about and have consequences beyond the 4th.”