Public Health

Flint Public Schools Extend Remote Learning Indefinitely

Schools in Flint, Michigan, are extending the virtual learning period for the foreseeable future. Haven't we learned that virtual learning comes at too high a cost?

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Public schools in Flint, Michigan, will stick with remote learning indefinitely, Flint Community Schools announced on Wednesday. The decision reverses last week's announcement that Flint schools would reopen on January 24. The promised reopening would've marked the end of three weeks of remote learning that have followed the district's holiday break, which also ran three weeks.

In his first at-home learning announcement to parents on January 9, Flint Superintendent Kevelin Jones cited the level of community transmission of the omicron variant of COVID-19 as the reason to continue remote learning.

"As you know, the safety and wellbeing of our scholars, families, teachers and staff remains our highest priority," Jones wrote. "By shifting to distance learning, we are mitigating the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to provide a continuity of learning to our scholars and focusing on their academic, social and emotional growth."

He added, "We understand the burden that this can cause for our families. We greatly apologize for the inconvenience and truly believe that in-person learning is the best for our scholars."

In a January 12 Board of Education meeting on virtual learning, Jones explained that "it is just not safe" to resume in-person school and that "we are going to be catching up, educationally, for a while anyway….We are going to have to catch up, but the world has not ended. We are going to keep going and keep educating."

However, data show that virtual learning has come at a steep cost for children. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study suggests that virtual learning has harmed children's physical, mental, and emotional health while placing additional stress on parents and driving some to cope by using alcohol and drugs. A McKinsey & Company report claims that the average learning loss for remote learners during the pandemic was 6.8 months. Black students fared much worse with 10.3 months of learning loss, a relevant statistic given that Flint's school district is 74.2 percent black.