Flint school board and community say school closings harm district's future

FLINT (WJRT) (01/23/2020) - Flint Community Schools are struggling with a heartbreaking decision: which schools should close to save the district?

Parents and community members made an emotional outcry on Thursday night as the school board scrambles to come up with a plan to get out of the red.

It was week three of a school board workshop aimed at eliminating debt. Over the past two weeks, board members opposed closing Pierce and Eisenhower elementary schools, but they made it clearer on Thursday night.

They can't all agree to close any Flint school.

"It's not a lot about this budget. It's about we will never grow if we keep doing this, because parents choose based on how mad you made them," Vice President Diana Wright said.

Board member Blake Strozier acknowledged that cuts are necessary to balance the district's budget.

"I know there needs to be decisions made, but I'm asking administration, I'm asking the board, I'm asking those that are up here in this room today, come with a plan that unites this city together instead of divides us further," he said.

The board needs to comply with its enhanced deficit elimination plan. They are facing a structural deficit of $5 million and need to cut those yearly expenses by February or the state will take matters into their own hands.

Superintendent Derrick Lopez presented his five plans, each saving on custodial costs, transportation, utilities and personnel. The plans range from saving just over $400,000 by consolidating one school to saving $2.1 million by consolidating five schools.

If the board decides not to close any school, Lopez said the Michigan Department of Treasury could come in and make the decision. Still, that didn't stop the community from showing their disapproval.

"The school is the hub of the community like one person said in there. You look at certain areas on the north side. Civic Park was thriving. They shut it down and all the students went to charter schools, and it looked like a third-world country over there. It looked like an atomic bomb that went off over there and decimated the neighborhood," Flint resident Arthur Woodson said.

There is a meeting scheduled on Jan. 30 for the board to vote on the plan.

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