Flint, MI—Flint Community Schools Superintendent Anita Steward said there is a possibility classes will remain online past the projected return date of September 14. She made the announcement along with other updates about FCS’ reopening efforts at a school board meeting on Wednesday.

“Due to the uptick in COVID-19 cases in Michigan, we believe it is simply too soon to be considering a return to in-person learning,” she said.

The FCS Board of Education approved the district’s Safe Return and Recovery Plan in July. The plan was designed to be flexible so the district could adjust to unknowns, adhere to Governor Whitmer’s six-phase Return to School Roadmap and follow CDC recommendations, Steward said at the July meeting.

“Our families have endured a lot during this pandemic, and we want to keep them safe and healthy in this unprecedented time,” she said.

To ensure the safety of Flint students, fall athletics have been canceled, FCS said in an announcement last Thursday. Steward said the decision was not made lightly due to the importance of athletics for the Flint community.

More Devices for Students

Virtual classes began August 5 and some students and families are still without school-issued Chromebooks, but FCS is working to address the issue.

“FCS surveyed families throughout the summer. However, at the start of the school year, as the first day approached and families evaluated their ability to get connected, there was a higher need for hotspots than earlier reported,” Steward said.

The district has ordered more technology and will have enough to meet student demand, she said.

Door-to-Door Efforts Going Well

Flint staff members are going door to door to find hard-to-reach students who have been unable to contact their schools and attend online classes.

Last week, the district reported only 1,500 students had checked in with their teachers, which is less than half of the total student population, Assistant Superintendent Kevelin Jones said.

Many families in Flint do not have phones, roofs over their head or internet access and traditional communication methods are ineffective, Jones said. “There’s more to the story that’s not being told. There is a decline in opportunity for a family to be able to take care of themselves. It’s not equal across the board in all our school districts. We have to go to them.”

Door-to-door efforts have significantly improved attendance rates. “As of [Tuesday] we have 2,667 [students] who have connected with their teachers, a drastic increase from last Wednesday,” Steward said.

FCS will continue their on-the-ground search in the upcoming weeks.

Other Important Outcomes of Wednesday’s Board Meeting

Flint’s school board adopted a revised Student Code of Conduct that included changes to the district’s dress code policy.

If schools return to in-person learning, students will now be allowed to wear hoodies at the discretion of each school’s principal. “The team felt that with our current conditions around the boilers…us prohibiting hoodies was a bit harsh to the students for a number of reasons. One is because our students use their hoodies as their primary coat,” Director of Student Intervention Ernest Steward said.

Additionally, students in grades K-8 will see a relaxed uniform policy and are no longer be required to wear light yellow or light blue. Instead, they can wear any solid color of their choosing.

The new Student Code of Conduct also sets guidelines for facial coverings in lieu of COVID-19. “Last year, prior to the pandemic, students were wearing facial coverings, but it had gang affiliation tied to it.  All masks must be worn for medical purposes and must align with district and state policies,” Earnest Steward said.

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...