News Story

Flint school district requires masks for fall classes, then changes course

Masks are now merely recommended, not required, in the district that gave every employee a $22K COVID bonus

A new reporting tool created by the state of Michigan showed that fewer than five children in the Genesee Intermediate School District tested positive for COVID-19 during the week ending July 13. Even so, Kevelin Jones, superintendent of Flint Community Schools, announced that students in his district would be required to wear face masks, before immediately reversing the decision. The district, one of 21 in the Genesee ISD, currently recommends mask-wearing instead.

Jones wrote a letter to district parents on July 21. As reported by WXYZ-TV, it said: “Schools across the country have experienced spikes in COVID-19 cases after extended breaks, and Flint Community Schools is no different. Based on our experiences last school year, we are taking this extra measure to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and help protect our school community.” The letter can no longer be found on the district’s website.

The Michigan Intermediate School District COVID-19 Case Reporting database shows the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the state’s ISDs. For the Genesee ISD, the seven-day average was less than five per week, as of July 13. It is unclear why Flint Community Schools briefly announced the mask requirement before rescinding it. Superintendent Jones did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Flint Community Schools is no stranger to controversy when it comes to COVID-19 policies. It received $50,000 per student in COVID relief funds, by far the most money any Michigan school district received, on a per-pupil basis. Yet the district was inconsistent in offering in-person instruction after closing its doors for the pandemic in March 2020.

The Flint superintendent sent a letter to families in February 2021 to tell them that sneeze guards had not yet been installed, which was one factor deterring in-class instruction.

School officials had said they would install air conditioning before the 2021-22 school year. The installation did not happen in time, resulting in additional school cancellations. District leaders also chose to close schools due to COVID-19 case rates and after the Oxford High School shooting, out of an “abundance of caution.” These are all days children spent out of the classroom.

The Flint school district has shed more than 20,000 students this century, going from 23,962 enrolled students in August 2000 to 3,623 in August 2021.

Even though the district continues to lose students, it gave each employee a $22,000 bonus, using federal COVID-19 funds.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.