FLINT, MI — The Flint Community Schools Board of Education approved a plan Wednesday night to have students return to classrooms for the first time in the 2020-21 school year.
Pre-K through 3rd grade students will return under a hybrid in-person model on Monday, March 15, while students in 4th through 12th grade are also set to tentatively return to classrooms by Monday, March 22.
The decision comes weeks after the board had originally voted to allow families the option to return students Feb. 22, but the district informed families three days prior to the date that they would postpone the move due to concerns over sneeze guards.
Related: Flint schools postpone Feb. 22 in-person start date citing sneeze guard concerns
Assistant Superintendent Kevelin Jones presented the new plan to the board at Wednesday’s meeting.
The measure passed by a 5-1 vote, with Laura MacIntyre casting the lone no vote. Board Secretary Danielle Green was absent from the meeting.
The reason for the slow start for later levels involves final installation of the sneeze guards, Jones said. Pre-K through 3rd grade classrooms already have sneeze guards installed, he said.
Sneeze guards in 4th through 7th grade classrooms will be installed over the next week.
Students in 8th through 12th grade will have mobile sneeze guards that they take between classrooms.
Board members Joyce Ellis-McNeal, Carol McIntosh, Adrian Walker and Diana Wright said they visited schools prior to the vote.
Ellis-McNeal said it is important to listen to the range of needs from the community including those who would like to send students back to school.
It is important to note families still have the option to remain as well, she added.
“Based on the schools that I saw, I would be comfortable going back to school,” said Ellis-McNeal.
Related: Parent ‘beyond frustrated’ after Flint schools postpones in-person option 3 days before kids were scheduled to return
Wright visited one school and spoken to a couple of people in the district before the decision.
Parents have primarily expressed concern over the inconsistency in the district’s plan to return since it was postponed, Wright said.
“Right now, they are ready to return to school,” she said.
Walker said he spoke with administrators and students about the potential move.
“It seems like the overall theme was that they’re ready to let children back into the schools.” Walker said.
Walker said the main concern he heard was about connectivity and internet access for all learners.
He also pointed out transparency about changes in the learning plan was an issue among staff, as some heard about the district’s plans over returning to the classroom through news media rather than the district.
In casting the lone dissenting vote, MacIntyre said she has heard from teachers that the district is unprepared to go back to school. She said going back seems like “bad science.”
“This makes no sense to me,” MacIntyre said. “I don’t understand the rush, the urgency.”
She said she doesn’t believe her questions have been answered adequately in regard to measures taken to ensure safety from COVID-19.
MacIntyre called the remainder of the board’s recommendation an “ill advised decision” that showed “callous indifference.”
“It seems like we’re playing a very dangerous game with people’s lives,” she said.
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