School officials vigilant and ready to act quickly if coronavirus scare increases

Coronavirus concerns and their possible impact on schools -- including the Key Biscayne K-8 Center -- is being continually assessed by the Miami-Dade County schools administrators.

Silvia Tarafa, the K-8 Center principal, said Tuesday the school and its staff continue to follow the guidelines and protocols set by the Centers for Disease Control and the school district.

“Our primary concern is the safety of our students and staff,’’ he said.

She said she is in constant communication with parents regarding travel advisories, the need for sick students to remain home, and providing families with precautionary measures recommended by the CDC.

As for the school building itself, the custodial staff is working to ensure all areas of the school are maintained and cleaned using “pandemic cleaning protocols.”

For the students, there are special lessons “on the importance of washing their hands, using a Kleenex when they sneeze, and avoiding touching their faces.” Students are asked to wash hands for a full 20 seconds, and parents are asked to ensure their children wash correctly.

While the concern is real, Tarafa said she is confident her staff and county school officials are staying alert and responsive, communicating well, and will remain on top of the situation -- altering plans as needed.

“We have not seen an increase in student absences so far,” said Maria Gutiérrez, who works at K-8 Center, adding that if children arrive with a cough, or any symptoms of illness, they ask parents to keep them ho until they are well.

“It is a fluid situation. The most important thing is to be vigilant about the protocols set by the CDC to ensure the health and safety of all of our students and our community, Tarafa said.

Tuesday afternoon, Miami-Dade County Public Schools held a press conference to discuss coronavirus concerns and their plans for educating students if schools are closed.

Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent, outlined new travel regulations -- cancelling travel outside of Florida for students and staff. In-state and in-county activities are being analyzed on a case-by-case basis, he said.

For now, he said, extracurricular activities will continue as normal. Carvalho said that a massive shutdown of schools is highly unlikely.

If schools do shut down, Carvalho said the county has a program to provide laptop computers to students without home computers. They have 200,000 laptops available, while there are 345,000 students registered. He added that they have the capability of creating WIFI hotspots for areas without connectivity or homes without internet service.

Carvalho said the county may consider extending the spring break vacation if necessary so children can stay home longer and help reduce concern about potential exposure to the virus.