FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Tens of thousands of South Florida students who are not making satisfactory progress will be required to return to in-person instruction this month, school district officials in Miami-Dade and Broward counties said.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Broward Public Schools sent parents of struggling students letters informing them their children will be required to return to campuses by the start of the second semester.

In Miami-Dade, that date is Jan. 25. In Broward, it is Jan. 13.

M-DCPS sent formal notifications to parents of about 10,000 students. The letter reads in part, “The Florida Department of Education recently released Emergency Order 20-EO-07, which requires a transition to face-to-face learning for students engaging in remote learning that are not making adequate academic progress.”

The announcement comes months after many students across South Florida made the shift to online learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.

From a performance standpoint, that approach has not worked out for everybody, so struggling students will return to the brick-and-mortar style of learning.

M-DCPS Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said chronic absences and disengagement are just a couple of the concerns.

“That is why we are deploying resources and reaching out to their parents, to have conversations with 10,000 families in our community, letting them know the academic status of their children and really putting before them a better option for their kids,” he said.

Administrators said the students selected to return to classrooms were chosen based on universal criteria that include grades in core subjects, attendance and graduation assessment for juniors and seniors.

Exceptional student education, or ESE, pupils were also reviewed as part of the screening.

Parents will have the ultimate say, but Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union, said her members have more questions than answers.

“Our teachers are still in the unknown,” she said.

The letter sent to parents in Broward reads in part, “To the greatest extent possible, the face-to-face experience in the next semester will be more traditional, providing students with live teacher and student interactions each day in classrooms. Higher percentages of families selecting this option may necessitate that schools relax current physical distancing protocols.”

Fusco said she appreciates Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ efforts to have the state’s public schools move away from remote learning, especially on a day when a system-wide internet issue meant many students and teachers were unable to log on from district locations.

However, Fusco indicated, academics cannot be the only consideration, as COVID-19 continues to rage across the state.

“It works for some, but we still see the majority need that social interaction, that face-to-face component. You need that human touch, and I’m glad that they see that,” she said. “That is a value and important, but I don’t agree with their angle, their scare tactics to get people back in.”

Fusco said the one thing that could help during this transition process is more funding for schools.

School district officials urge parents to reach out to their children’s individual schools with any questions or concerns.

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