Flint, MI – The Flint Board of Education passed the district’s Safe Return and Recovery Plan in a meeting Wednesday night. Students will start online classes on August 5th and then resume in-person instruction after Labor Day, unless Governor Gretchen Whitmer orders otherwise.

Superintendent Anita Steward presented the 55-page plan and highlighted its key points for the board. Students and their caregivers will be able to choose between three different learning environments this fall:

  • Face-to-face instruction (students attend school)
  • Hybrid learning (a combination of virtual and face-to-face instruction)
  • Virtual instruction (students attend online classes only)

If caregivers are uncomfortable sending their students back to school, they may opt for full-time virtual learning by filling out a “virtual learning consent form” that will be available on flintschools.org. The deadline to submit this form is Aug. 5.

“We want to know how many of our parents will be sending their children back face-to-face, if we do go face-to-face, after Labor Day. We need to know that so we can be prepared for that,” Steward said.

Steward outlined several changes and safety protocols that will be in place if schools open for in-person learning.

Personal Protection Equipment and Cleaning

  • All students, staff and faculty will be required to wear facial coverings, if medically feasible, while moving about the building and inside classrooms.
  • Students desks must be disinfected after every class period.
  • Hands-on classroom or school equipment must be wiped down after each use.
  • Signage reminding students of handwashing, coughing, sneezing and nose-blowing etiquette will be posted throughout the buildings.

Screening and Prevention 

  • The use of hand sanitizer will be required by anyone who enters the building.
  • Staff and faculty will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms via a screening questionnaire.
  • Strict records of visitors will be kept.

Busing 

  • Bus drivers and students must wear facial coverings while in transport. Vehicles must be disinfected after each route.
  • Capacity may be reduced and students may have assigned seating, according to a Flint Community Schools press release.

Dining 

  • Students will be required to wash with soap and water or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol before and after meals.
  • Students can choose to eat in classrooms to reduce movement.
  • There may be assigned seating in the cafeteria. Tables will be disinfected after each lunch period.

Athletics

  • Participants must prove they are healthy and free from COVID-19 symptoms with documentation.
  • Equipment will be disinfected after each use.
  • Spectators are permitted at sports events so long as they wear facial coverings and remain six feet apart.
  • Unnecessary physical contact (high-fives, handshakes, etc.) are not permitted.

The plan parallels Governor Whitmer’s six-phase Return to School Roadmap, Steward said. “It’s a living document that can change over time. And because there’s so many unknowns with the virus, it’s going to be changing,” she said.

Vice President Diana Wright, Secretary Betty Ramsdell and Trustee Vera Perry offered their support for the plan, but Treasurer Danielle Green and Trustee Carol McIntosh dissented.

“For me, the thought of going back into buildings with children and expecting them to do the safety precautions that we need to keep them healthy, I cannot see it. I will not be supporting that they go back at the end of August because I need to sleep at night,” Green said.

McIntosh voiced doubt about the district’s ability to provide a clean environment but voted in favor of the plan. “I’m concerned, too, especially with the expansion on the cleaning because we don’t do that well. I’m not confident in anybody because that’s a different level of cleaning, lives are depending on it.”

Wright and the other board members agreed that starting virtually in August would allow enough time to “make adjustments as needed.”

But it is not clear what August will look like for teachers and staff who will be preparing their classrooms for in-person learning while conducting online classes. Director of Human Resources Cassandra Washington is currently working with the unions and contracted staff to determine who can return to work, who is willing to return to face-to-face instruction and is developing a rotating classroom schedule.

Steward said she believes the board’s decision last week to downsize Flint Community Schools will not impact social distancing or safety efforts.

The vote passed 4-1.

Parents and caregivers interested to know more about the reopening protocols can visit Flint Community Schools’ F&Q page.

Carmen Nesbitt

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...

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