By TONY WINTON
While the KBI continues to plan for a full launch, we felt it was necessary to publish this item now because of its importance. Readers are encouraged to join our mailing list for updates about the publication.
A Friday night party involving Key Biscayne students and a soccer practice are emerging as possible spreading events for at least two cases of COVID-19 that caused the brief closure of the prestigious MAST Academy magnet school on Monday, according to a MAST teacher with knowledge of the events. A school district spokesperson said contact tracing protocols have been activated but could not confirm the circumstances of any later possible exposures.
In an email, MAST principal Derick McKoy said the school had been thoroughly sanitized and would re-open its in-person classes on Tuesday, except for students and staff who had been asked to quarantine.
MAST parents were told late Sunday night the campus, which is nationally known for its Marine Science program, would use virtual learning Monday. The campus of about 1,550 students includes a Cambridge learning program for about 960 eligible Village middle and high school students under an agreement with the Village of Key Biscayne. Both programs went to online-only classes.
School district spokeswoman Natalia Zea said the school acted swiftly after getting a self-reported lab result. “We do not wait for the health department,” she said.
A teacher at the school with direct knowledge of the event said the two students were from Key Biscayne and had attended a party on Friday night, and that the students had also attended a soccer practice Saturday. The teacher did not know how many students may have been exposed at either the practice or the party. The teacher said the students are thought to have contracted the virus from a family member. The teacher asked that their name not be used because of the sensitive nature of the information.
But the teacher expressed concern the community is becoming more lax about preventing transmission of the virus, which has resulted in 3,445 deaths in Miami-Dade as of Oct. 12 and 215,000 nationally, according to the State of Florida and Johns Hopkins University.
The teacher said teachers often hear from students that parties take place frequently. “There are parties all over the place,” the teacher said. “Most of the time, I am a fly on the wall, but occasionally I will chime in and say ‘don’t do that.’”
The teacher said the school district was aware of the exposure on Saturday, but waited until late Sunday before informing staff, parents, or students. The United Teachers of Dade, the union representing staff at MAST, did not return a call for comment.
Lili Warner, a member of Village of Key Biscayne’s Education Advisory Board, wants the group to review what happened at MAST to improve safeguards. “It’s going to be important for us to know what the protocols are going to be so we can keep our schools open as much as possible.”
An earlier version of this story described the soccer practice as being on Friday instead of Saturday.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.