Flint, MI—Each school day, Benny Stribling drops off his grandson at Eisenhower and picks him up from the building. Potholes get in the way of cars coming in and out, he noted. Logistics aside, Stribling explained that appearance matters, too.

“Having a nice parking lot, it speaks to the people at the school,” he said. 

Stribling added that Eisenhower deserves better.

“They got great teachers, great principal,” he said. “They got great students and they doing a great job.” 

So, Stribling is glad that the state of Eisenhower’s parking lot will be improved. 

“You won’t see this in Grand Blanc,” he said. “You won’t see this in Carman-Ainsworth and you probably won’t see it out further … It’s great that Flint Schools is pulling up.”

On April 19, 2023, the Board of Education approved renovating the parking lots of Eisenhower, Accelerated Learning Academy (ALA), Doyle-Ryder, Pierce, Freeman, Neithercut and Holmes. According to Chris Henderson, the district’s director of operations and ancillary projects, the renovations are expected to begin mid-May and finish by early to mid-October.

Carmella Johnson, a paraprofessional at Eisenhower, said she’s looking forward to seeing the renovations. She noted that people’s cars have been damaged by potholes in the district’s parking lots. Any repairs made to Flint Schools’ buildings is always good news, Johnson added.

“Who wants to come to something that’s not nice and doesn’t look good? The parking lots are a part of infrastructure just like the highways and the streets are,” she said. “So I’m very excited about it. I really am.” 

Following the renovation, Kelly Fields, the ALA principal, hopes that people will be able to drive into the school with a parking lot that’s safe and also looks nice. 

“Good stewardship means that we’re taking care of and maintaining properties and infrastructures in such a way that not only tells you that I care about the buildings, it tells you that I care about the community that’s looking at these buildings and that’s engaging in these properties, and that we care about what we’re in charge of,” Fields said. 

Students head into school at Accelerated Learning Academy in Flint, Mich. on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)
Water pools in the uneven pavement of the Accelerated Learning Academy parking lot in Flint, Mich. on Monday, March 13, 2023. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

The total cost of construction amounts to $3,073,724, according to a presentation by Clark Construction Company, which is supporting the renovations. New asphalt will be laid, and repairs to potholes and sidewalks in the parking lots will be carried out as needed, Henderson said.

Marjai Childress, a family engagement facilitator at Holmes, said the parking lot is a space not only for students, families and staff, but also the broader public when community events are held at the school.

“Doing them parking lots is gonna bring hope to the community and to the school and the staff,” she said.

Holmes’ parking lot is in rough conditions at the moment, she noted, and driving there feels like “driving up a rocky mountain.” It’s been a long time coming when it comes to getting its whole parking lot fixed, Childress explained.

“I know we’re gonna be happy,” she said. “The community’s gonna be happy. The staff’s gonna be happy. That’s a win-win situation because everybody has been complaining about that parking lot and we’ve been waiting.” 

Renovating each parking lot will take up to six weeks, according to Henderson. The district will also bring renovation plans for Brownell and the Administration Building’s parking lots for Board approval in the near future. 

Accelerated Learning Academy (ALA) Principal Kelly Fields hugs a student as she arrives for school at ALA in Flint, Mich. on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

Fields welcomed the district’s investment into upgrading Flint Schools’ infrastructure. Recently, some of her students at ALA went on a tour at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich. There, according to Barb Miller, a social worker at ALA, a student described the wonder of seeing the beauty of its campus, the green grass and hearing all the birds chirping. 

“I’m excited about the fact that we get to create spaces that kids can be proud of in the same way,” Fields said. “They shouldn’t have to go an hour away from Flint in order to be able to see structures where they feel valued and honored and taken care of and that their safety is paramount.” 

Beyond parking lot renovations, Fields pointed out various upgrades also being planned by Flint Schools as positives. That includes replacing furniture district-wide and installing new roofing at several buildings. Renovations of Potter’s auditorium and Doyle-Ryder are currently underway. 

An open manhole in the parking lot of Accelerated Learning Academy in Flint, Mich. on Monday, March 13, 2023. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

Getting its parking lot fixed as well is “icing on the cake,” said Doyle-Ryder’s Principal Natoya Coleman. The building has been closed since mold was discovered in its classrooms in late 2021, and it’s undergoing a major overhaul at this time.

The elementary school’s students are expected to return to the building for the next academic year, and Coleman said the overall renovations of Doyle-Ryder will make “the outside experience enhanced as well as the inside experience.” 

Meanwhile, Stribling noted that he’s thankful for the change to come with the parking lots of his grandson’s school and other buildings of Flint Community Schools.

“That is a blessing for the city of Flint school system, because see, we ride around other schools and [their] parking lot and everything is paved and look good, and we want our schools to look good as well,” he said. “We want our schools to look like other schools. We want our parking lot to look good.”

Nicholas is Flint Beat’s public health and education reporter. He joins the team as he graduates from Santa Clara University, Calif. Nicholas has previously reported on dementia and brain health, as...