‘The summer lasted too long.’ Kids and parents thrilled to be back in school in Broward

·3 min read

The first day of classes for Broward County public schools led to a fashion-forward high schooler showing off her knee-high black leather boots while a kindergartner donned a spanking new “Minions” backpack and lunchbox set.

“You can definitely feel the excitement. It feels more normal than it’s been for quite a while,” said Mark Kaplan, who started his fourth year as the principal of Coral Glades Senior High School in Coral Springs, one of the largest in the county with about 2,800 students.

In total, about 206,000 students in Broward County Public Schools returned to in-person learning Tuesday, according to the school district enrollment numbers. Tuesday marked the second year of face-to-face classes for all students amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which is coinciding with a rising number of monkeypox cases in South Florida, including a case of a child younger than 5 in Martin County, according to Florida health data.

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Broward Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright touted how the district had certified teachers for all core academic classes and bus drivers for all 784 routes, despite the high number of teacher vacancies in Florida and the nation.

She said the district registered 107 classroom teacher vacancies as of Tuesday. Bus drivers picked up about 56,000 students.

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“This is something special with the national teacher shortage that’s going on right now,” she said. “It is not something that you would normally see in a very large district, especially the sixth largest in the nation.”

Students arrive during the first day of school at Coral Glades High School in Coral Springs on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.
Students arrive during the first day of school at Coral Glades High School in Coral Springs on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.

Kaplan has worked for the Broward schools for 27 years — the last 19 as a principal. He said he most looks forward to operating under a “minimal pandemic.”

Only a handful of people on the Coral Springs campus wore a mask. Most ignored COVID social distancing in lieu of hugs and kisses.

Dane Pryce, 16, center, a junior at Coral Glades High School in Coral Springs, is dropped off during the first day of school in Broward County on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.
Dane Pryce, 16, center, a junior at Coral Glades High School in Coral Springs, is dropped off during the first day of school in Broward County on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.

One of those patting his friends on the back, Zachary Krouch, started his senior year Tuesday. Rocking back and forth on his feet and shaking his arms, he said for the past couple of months he mostly worked at Code Ninjas, a franchise that teaches kids how to code.

“The summer lasted for too long. I’m dying to get inside,” the 17-year-old said at about 7 a.m., minutes before the first bell rang at Coral Glades.

Some choosing masks for their children

Even though schools were no longer mandating masks — Broward and Miami-Dade school districts ended mask mandates last November — some parents still chose to enforce them for their children.

Luz Bonilla asked her son, Noah, to wear a mask on Tuesday, his first day of first grade at Winston Park Elementary School in Coconut Creek.

“How are you feeling, papi, are you scared?” she asked him. He hid behind her leg and pointed at a nearby police dog.

“Big dog,” he said.

“He’s a little scared. He talks about getting COVID,” she said.

The 7-year-old spent the past two years going to virtual school. Bonilla said because of her asthma and Noah’s weakened immune system, she kept him and his two elder brothers at home during the pandemic.

First-grader Noah Bonilla, 7, arrives for the first day of school at Winston Park Elementary School in Coconut Creek, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.
First-grader Noah Bonilla, 7, arrives for the first day of school at Winston Park Elementary School in Coconut Creek, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.

But now Noah struggles with social skills, she said, so she hopes interacting with kids his age will help him.

“He doesn’t look people eye to eye; he has some delays in his speech,” his mom said.

She met with the school’s guidance counselor on Monday though, and that meeting eased her nerves.

“I felt amazing after that,” Bonilla said.

Amari Alcira, 5, and his mother, Marie Sydney, arrive for the first day of school at Winston Park Elementary School in Coconut Creek on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.
Amari Alcira, 5, and his mother, Marie Sydney, arrive for the first day of school at Winston Park Elementary School in Coconut Creek on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.
Broward County School Superintendent Vickie Cartwright greets students as they arrive for the first day of school at Tropical Elementary School in Plantation on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.
Broward County School Superintendent Vickie Cartwright greets students as they arrive for the first day of school at Tropical Elementary School in Plantation on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.