Flint, MI—Flint Schools Board of Education has begun the demolition process for the former Washington Elementary School on the city’s east side.
At a Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023 meeting, the Flint Community Schools (FCS) Board voted unanimously to put the demolition of the vacant elementary out for bidding.
“It’s a great move,” Kevelin Jones, FCS superintendent, told Flint Beat. “That building is horrible, and we got to start somewhere and we got to be partners with our community … When I see children pass by that school trying to get to their schools, it’s not a good look.”
Nearly a decade ago, FCS closed Washington down to help address the district’s budget deficit and declining student enrollment. Since then, the property has been left vacant, dilapidated and burned.
Terae King Jr., Board vice president, said even though Washington is just one among other vacant properties owned by FCS, demolishing the school is a priority given the safety concerns surrounding the property.
“The main focus of the Board was to prevent future liabilities and to show this community we are committed to taking care of our properties,” King said.
The district has a total of 20 vacant properties, and FCS officials have said that securing the properties, such as fencing and boarding up the buildings, is an around-the-clock effort, with vandalism and break-ins occurring regularly.
Meanwhile, multiple City of Flint officials joined public comment at the Feb. 8 meeting, calling for Flint Schools to seek blighted property solutions in partnership with the city.
“Let’s sit down and talk. It’s affecting all of us,” Arnold Brown, Flint’s city services manager said of the district’s blighted properties. “We just want to have that sense of pride that we once had in the City of Flint.”
On Flint police officers’ part, Flint Police Detective Sergeant Tyrone Booth told the Board his department responded to 96 calls regarding the districts’ vacant properties in 2022 and seven so far this year. That included responses to drug use, prostitution and property destruction, he explained.
Further, the district’s vacant properties have been subject to a series of fires over the years.
“We are putting our men at risk for schools that are open and dilapidated. Help us,” said Flint Fire Department Interim Chief Theron Wiggins, referring to the district’s unsecured vacant properties.
Jones told Flint Beat that the district plans to discuss funding to address its blighted properties with City of Flint officials in the near future.
Ultimately, all seven Board of Ed members voted in favor of putting Washington’s demolition out to bid. King said the decision is just the first step toward acting upon Flint Schools’ vacant properties, and he is encouraged by the unanimous vote.
“I remember back during the campaign months, a resident … said, ‘We’re tired of talk. We want action,’” he told Flint Beat on Feb. 9. “Yesterday, we started action, and I’m happy to see the progress.”