Flint, MI—Governor Gretchen Whitmer is “strongly encouraging” K-12 schools to offer an in-person learning option no later than March 1, but Flint Schools officials said the district will continue virtual instruction—at least for now. 

“At Flint Community Schools, the safety and well-being of our school community is our primary concern, and we continue to rely on the recommendations of medical and public health professionals to make informed decisions. As of today, Flint Community Schools will continue to maintain remote learning for all scholars,” Superintendent Anita Steward said in a letter to families. 

In-person learning will not be required, but Whitmer alongside The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services set a statewide goal for all Michigan school districts to provide an in-person option by March 1. 

“Schools can establish a low risk of transmission by ensuring everyone wears a mask and adopting careful infection prevention protocols,” Whitmer said.

On Jan. 8, MDHHS released new guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the classroom. 

Prevention methods include: 

  • Wearing masks, ventilation improvements, frequent hand washing and social distancing 
  • Assigning children to cohort groups and limiting their interactions to their cohorts to reduce the number of contacts 
  • Having staff and students conduct self-screenings for symptoms at home every day before going to school
  • Ensuring school plans are in place in coordination with their local health department if there are any positive COVID-19 tests 

MDHHS also announced educators and other school staff are now eligible for vaccination as they are considered frontline workers. 

“MDHHS will continue to do what it takes to save lives and limit the spread of COVID-19,” MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said. “At the same time, in-person instruction is critical for the current and the future well-being of children, especially young learners and students who are disadvantaged. We encourage schools to reopen as soon as they can do so with proven protections for staff and students.”

Flint Schools has maintained virtual instruction since the beginning of the school year, though there are plans in place should the state require in-person learning. 

In July 2020, the Board of Education adopted the district’s Return to Learn plan, a 55-page document outlining several learning options for families and students. 

The plan parallels Governor Whitmer’s six-phase Return to School Roadmap, Steward said at the July board meeting. “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.

At the start, the district had planned to begin the year virtually but resume in-person instruction on Sept. 14, 2020. But after a spike in COVID-19 cases in late August, school officials determined it wasn’t safe.

“Any decisions regarding a return to in-person learning will require ongoing discussions with the Board of Education, district leadership and staff, and we will keep the community informed as those conversations move forward,” 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...