A Brownell student studies from a tablet (Courtesy of Flint Community Schools).

Flint, MI—The Flint Schools Board of Education voted to approve the district’s proposed COVID-19 Extended Learning Plan at a board meeting on Sept. 16. The move makes Flint Schools eligible to receive additional coronavirus relief funds for the 2020-2021 school year.

In August, Governor Gretchen Whitmer passed several bills to address the challenges of educating students during the coronavirus pandemic. As part of those efforts, Whitmer secured $65 million in federal aid for schools that demonstrate need.

To receive these funds, “economically disadvantaged” students must make up 50% of a district’s total student population. The state considers homeless students and those with a family income that qualifies them for free lunch economically disadvantaged populations.

In Flint, roughly 93% of students fall into this category, according to data collected by the Michigan Department of Education. The amount of money Flint Schools receive will be determined by the number of disadvantaged students, the number of students receiving special education services, and the number of students learning English as a second language, according to Whitmer’s initial announcement.

Student participation in online learning will also determine whether Flint Schools receive their full amount of state funds.

The new legislation alters the way funding is connected to in-person attendance. Prior to the pandemic, schools were required to have 75% daily attendance. But now, schools must ensure “two-way interactions” occur between 75% of students and their teachers. This means if teachers are not regularly communicating with students, the state may withhold funds.

At the beginning of the fall semester, it was uncertain if Flint Schools would meet this requirement. Device shortages impeded students’ ability to get online and more than half the student population was unaccounted for.

The district launched a door-to-door search to find missing students. Superintendent Anita Steward announced Sept. 16 the operation was a success.

“As a result of our door-to-door efforts, we now have 3,052 students who have connected with Flint Community Schools. On August 19, that number was just 1,797 students. The success and reach this program can be attributed to our dedicated team of administrators, teachers and paraprofessionals who spent many hours going above and beyond to reach our families,” she said.

In addition, schools must “publish” extended COVID-19 learning plans by Oct.1 to receive funding, according to the legislation. Some key components the plans must include are:

  • A statement explaining why an extended COVID-19 learning plan is necessary to “increase student engagement and achievement.”
  • Education goals that are expected to be achieved by the middle of the school year and by the end of the school year.
  • An explanation of how the district plans to deliver instruction.
  • A description of how the district will provide “equitable” access to learning and accommodations for disabled students.
  • An overview of how the district will administer one benchmark assessment for grades K-8 within the first nine weeks of the school year and again on the last day of school.

Highlights of Flint Schools’ COVID-19 Extended Learning Plan

Flint Schools will administer Northwest Evaluation Association assessments within the first nine weeks of classes and then again at the end of the year. There are two primary educational goals:

  • Students (K-8) will improve performance in Reading/ELA from fall to spring as measured by NWEA.
  • Students (K-8) will improve performance in Mathematics from Fall to Spring as measured by NWEA.

Progress reports will be emailed, mailed or made available for pick up to parents or guardians on a regular basis.

The district also plans to provide equitable access to disabled students by:

  • Providing district technology and wi-fi hotspots based on the reported need of the household.
  • Reviewing student IEPs and implementing them if possible.
  • If it is not possible to implement an IEP due to virtual learning, the “IEP team in collaboration with the parent will develop a Contingency Learning Plan to meet that child’s unique, individual needs.”
  • For infants and children under six-years-old who have special needs and those attending Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, “intervention and support services will be integrated into the student’s program immediately upon the start of school.”

Flint Schools note the COVID-19 Extended Learning Plan supplements the Safe Return and Recovery Plan and does not replace it.

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...