Sneeze guard shortage leads Flint Community Schools to remain virtual

Students were supposed to come back to classrooms Monday, but that is delayed again indefinitely
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 5:57 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Flint Community Schools students are facing another delay in resuming face-to-face learning nearly a year after going virtual.

The district is citing a sneeze guard shortage.

United Teachers of Flint President Karen Christian said the union has been having conversations with the district for several months about what the teachers needed to feel comfortable bringing students back to the classroom. Sneeze guards for every desk were on their list of musts, but they found out Friday there weren’t enough.

Christian said the district took a survey of how many would show up for the first scheduled day of in-person classes, but many parents might have changed their minds.

“The number of sneeze guards that needed to be ordered changes daily. So, no idea if it was really ordered wrong or if, because of all the different changes that were still happening, they didn’t realize they needed more,” she said.

Christian said teachers across the Flint Community Schools district won’t feel comfortable with in-person learning until all of those are up. She believes that Superintendent Anita Steward has been attentive to their concerns, as every teacher has plenty of masks, hand sanitizer and wipes for their classrooms

Christian said the teachers also are waiting on an order of air purifiers for classrooms and for every teacher who wants to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to get access to a shot.

“The district has done well procuring shots for staff. We haven’t gotten everybody vaccinated yet, but we’re getting closer,” she said.

Christian said the teachers are happy with the district’s decision to delay in-person instruction because many of them felt rushed.

In January, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer set a March 1 goal for all districts to offer all students at least partial in-person learning. Christian said Flint schools were trying to meet that goal, but she said there was no requirement to -- pointing out it’s a goal and not a mandate.

“They needed to do the pause to learn because they were not ready, and until we’re ready we don’t need to be face to face,” Christian said.

There is no new deadline for Flint Community Schools to resume in-person learning as of Monday. Christian said the district may set a new target after the next shipment of sneeze guards and air purifiers arrives.

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