The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of MAST Academy, since 1991.
The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

GALLERY: Prom 2024
GALLERY: Prom 2024
April 7, 2024

Navigating rough waters: MAST, Key Biscayne, and COVID-19

Graphic by Jorden Demerritte

By Alexandra Fadel
Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the entire world by storm, and Miami is no exception. The city has not been able to keep cases under control, and it is no surprise that its schools have had the same experience. As of February, Miami-Dade County has seen 388,000 cases and 5,062 fatalities from COVID-19, with MAST Academy, in spite of its small size, being one of the schools with the most COVID-19 positive cases in the county.

“A lot of public schools like MAST are built to cram as many kids as possible in one place, so students can’t even safely socially distance in the hallways,” junior Ava Castañeda said.

Story continues below advertisement

Castañeda was sent home to quarantine for two weeks after students from two of her classes tested positive with COVID-19. MAST Academy has been using this method –quarantining an entire class for two weeks if a student tests positive–in an attempt to maintain the spread of the virus under control. Despite the efforts, administration still finds itself overwhelmed with the amount of cases among students that have been reported.

The most recent one was sent Monday, February 1, when 25 teachers and more than 200 students were sent home to quarantine after a large outbreak of the virus.

Principal Derick McKoy has sent out a total of eight email notices informing parents that there have been COVID-positive students in different classrooms. The most recent one was sent Monday, February 1, when 25 teachers and more than 200 students were sent home to quarantine after a large outbreak of the virus.

The school still welcomes hundreds of students who opt for in-person learning every day, many times making it more stressful for them.   

“It’s very hard to concentrate in the auditorium,” junior Marta Zapata said. ”It’s packed, there’s a lot of noise, and the wifi tends to be very bad.”

MAST’s unique situation has attracted mass media coverage from the Miami Herald, the WPLG Local 10 and WSVN News, and NBC 6 South Florida. 

“Allowing schools to operate physically is conducting a daily place where the largest group of non-cooperating public (i.e. youths) come together in close quarters with a core group of higher risks persons. It is a Petri dish for cross-contamination,” user Vivian in the comment section of a WPLG Local 10 news article said. 

Monica Floreani, a MAST teacher, explained the problematic behavior of many students during COVID-19 in response to emailed questions. 

“Most young people do not require hospitalization from contracting COVID-19— this demographic feels almost invincible and has a false sense of security,” Floreani said. “I see middle and high schoolers cramming into cars, playing sports, and walking in friend groups without any barriers to COVID-19 transmission.”

During her recent time at MAST, Floreani has self-quarantined since March 2020, and has not gone back to teach physically at the school. She explained the role MAST plays in instilling a sense of responsibility in its students regarding COVID-19 precautions.

“As an institution, MAST Academy has taken many useful steps to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on school premises,” Floreani said. “But the key to our collective success ultimately lies in the individual responsibility of each MAKO.” 

The close proximity of MAST Academy to the Village of Key Biscayne might also explain why it has seen so many cases of COVID-19. 

“Most cases people are coming from outside of school, and it becomes a safety precaution for everyone,” Castañeda said.

Irresponsible social gatherings may have played a large part in the recent rise of cases, according to Key Biscayne mayor Mike Davey.

“He [Dr. McKoy] got frustrated because he was learning that there were all these parties going on, and I’m frustrated as well when I hear that people are not socializing responsibly. I understand, as does Dr. McKoy, that people, kids especially, have to socialize. But parents should not be allowing these big parties…[and] gatherings where people are going inside, not wearing facial coverings, and not social-distancing,” said Davey.

Dr. McKoy updated MAST Academy families on the situation in a 3-minute Connect-Ed phone message he left on January 29.

“I cannot control what occurs outside of our school walls, but when the impact sends home 25 of our own teachers, this is unacceptable behavior,” he said. “There is a sense of urgency here, and I need all our families to have a discussion with your children about how to be more responsible.”

It would be disingenuous to ignore the responsibility that falls on the shoulders of parents to educate and limit their children during this pandemic.

Both Dr. McKoy and Mayor Davey continue to work towards slowing the spread of COVID-19, but it would be disingenuous to ignore the responsibility that falls on the shoulders of parents to educate and limit their children during this pandemic.

“The kids emulate what they see, so they see the governor isn’t doing anything, the other parts of the state aren’t doing anything, and the parents aren’t restricting them,” Davey  said. “This is a community effort, [and] parents need to get involved.”

Mayor Mike Davey has released many statements on his stance, often stating that there is not much the Key Biscayne administration can do besides educating  its citizens. 

In response to the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, Davey and the Key Biscayne administration made the decision to put the island on lockdown on March 23 , only allowing essential workers in. Although it was  lifted  months later, the village government has been actively working to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We still have the curfew, and are pushing to have people wear facial coverings and maintain social distancing. The governor’s orders have really limited our ability to exercise local governance, which is a problem and I think is wrong on his part. We continue to offer testing, and we’re working to bring vaccines to the village,” Davey said.  

Handling this pandemic has not been easy for responsible administrations, as conflicting opinions have turned decision-making into serious conflicts of interest. Pat Woodson, a former Key Biscayne council member who served for two terms, responded to emailed questions about the problems that arose when approaching the situation.

“I think the Key Biscayne administration under the previous manager was not communicating strongly nor consistently about the need to wear masks, limit gatherings and maintain social distance,” she wrote. “Mayor Davey carried the ball well with his weekly videos.”  

However, to properly handle an epidemic this serious, people need to come together. Communities must be educated and activities must be regulated. 

“I believe that a robust campaign for public health, visible in as many places and through all media will be helpful,” Woodson wrote. “We would all benefit from a trusted, reliable source of updated useful information from the Village, available in many forms.”

COVID-19 has had a heavy presence in both MAST Academy and the Village of Key Biscayne. Leaders in both communities, which often come together as one, are doing what they can to keep the spread of the virus under control. However, citizens need to do their part as well to ensure this pandemic stays contained.

“My only desire is to leave MAST Academy in a better place than I found it. Each of you can also help to do the same,” Dr. McKoy said.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Beacon

Your donation will support the student journalists of MAST Academy. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The Beacon

Comments (0)

All The Beacon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Navigating rough waters: MAST, Key Biscayne, and COVID-19