Flint, MI– “It’s not worth it.”
That’s what Marlis Settle, a Brownell STEM Academy staff member, said about the reopening of Genesee County schools after the holidays in light of the surge in COVID-19 cases and the Omicron variant.
“It is very important that we do not release our babies back, and take a chance of losing one. One is way too many when we have the option to go virtual,” Settle said during a press conference on Dec. 31. “Virtual for three weeks will not hurt anybody.”
Settle was one of about fifteen people at Cathedral of Faith Church standing in protest of schools reopening on Jan. 3, especially with the mask mandate for Genesee County Schools no longer in effect.
Bishop Chris Martin said the group felt that it was “not the time to go back to in-person learning, especially without a mask mandate.”
Martin said the reopening of schools should be delayed until at least Jan. 18, once a determination could be made about whether or not the Omicron variant will “decrease in the surge.”
“As of right now it is not safe for parents, or students, or staff to be in self-contained buildings or classrooms without a mask,” Martin said. “And certainly not safe for them to be going to school with a transmissible variant like Omicron of COVID-19.”
As of Dec. 29, the average number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan is 12,929 per day. That breaks the state’s record for new daily cases, which was 8,069 on Nov. 29.
In addition to pushing for a delay in the reopening, Martin said the group would also like to see the mask mandate reinstated, and virtual options provided “so everyone can be safe.”
Jenesis Dones, a senior at Carman-Ainsworth High School, said that it was “not safe or right” for her and her peers to return to school.
“Of course we’re on winter break, a lot of people are visiting family, friends, around large gatherings,” Dones said. “Going back to school immediately after the break is not the best option.”
Dones said she didn’t want to see prom and other major events canceled in her senior year due to COVID-19, and said she thought students needed to take time before returning to school.
Settle said she had concerns about the students, but also the staff members.
“We have staff members who take care of elderly parents who are sick. They can’t afford to take anything home,” she said. “If you send us back, you take a chance on them getting sick.”
She also said there aren’t enough substitute teachers to cover for teachers who get sick.
“It’s not worth it. Please shut us down until Jan. 18,” Settle said.