FCHS Indian Logo Flint Central High School

Flint Central High School
Class of 1963

Member of the Flint Alumni Connection

FCHS in the News

December 16, 2019

Hi Classmates,

I was honored to present 2 - almost $700 each grants to 2 teachers from Potter Elementary school this last Monday. This is the plaque we received showing that our donation of almost $1400 went to the Classroom support fund.

To those that were not aware, at our last reunion committee meeting , last spring, we decided to donate the remainder of our bank account to a worthy cause. My dear friend Julie Lazar FCHS ‘64 is on this committee that helps teachers in need to do something special for their classroom. After she explained to me that donations are made during the year to this fund and teachers apply for $$$ grants to help with projects or class trips that help the kids, I thought this was a great idea. A way to give back to our wonderful years in the Flint schools that are now certainly struggling.

It was a fun morning, early breakfast at 7 AM but I wanted to participate as Potter School is only 1 of 3-4 elementary schools left in the Flint System.

This does not mean we won’t have reunions in the future but they will be more low key, meet and greets, pay as you go and there was no reason to have our account just sit and do nothing from year to year. Again this is just to show everyone where our $$$ has gone and it is certainly to a good cause. Thanks to all on our committee and we will be in contact for maybe a get together sometime this summer.

Regards, Michael Larson. “Once an Indian, always an Indian”

January 17, 2012 Flint (WJRT)

A Flint man has an unusual hobby. He builds scale models of historic buildings in the city. He recently started on a replica of Flint Central High School. "Flint Central High School is constructed with balsa wood, construction paper, plastic, paint, glue and tape", said Garry McDaniel, speaking of the model he's building. The scale model will be 6 feet long and 4 feet wide. " With the tower, it's going to be 2 and a half feet tall," McDaniel said. He started on the Central high School project in July. Work and other priorities means he has little time to spend on his hobby. "When I build my scale models that's how I wind my day down. I can get down here and work on this and tune everything out," McDaniel said. He also built a model of Martin Elementary. It was on Flint's north end and it's where McDaniel went to school. It was recently demolished but it lives on in McDaniel's home. The modeler also has a replica of St. Joseph Hospital. The detailing is what sets his work apart.


A Farewell to Flint Central High School - June 2009

On June 12, 2009, The Flint Central High School Alumni Association scheduled a farewell gathering on the last day of school at Flint Central before it's ultimate closing. All Flint Central Alumni were invited to tour Central and join in the activities happening that day. We were able to remember the pride of being a Flint Central Indian and Phoenix.As we walked through the old building, if was different on the inside, hall ways were changed and it definitely looked smaller. The outside was still as beautiful as it was during my time at Central, but yes, it needed some TLC in regards to repair. Forty five years had taken it's toll on what I remembered. We joined with other classmates and walked the hallways together and remembered the good ole days. We talked about the teachers and how they had affected our lives. At the conclusion ofthe event a large group gathered of past and present members of the Flint Central "A Cappella Choir" and many others who joined in on the front lawn of the school grounds and sang our beloved benediction, "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" to our beloved school. It was a sad and meaningful day and I am glad I took the opportunity to be part of it.

Do you have any thoughts you would like to share? Send them to flintcentral63@yahoo.com

JUNE 12, 2009

The closing day of Flint Central High School

June 12, 2009

Joe Yonan and Dee Wilson

Steve and Rosie Casner

Flint Central Alumni Galore!

Alumni singing "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" as a final farewell to Flint Central High School.


Joe Eufinger signing one of the guest books

Jim and Dee (Delores Dixon) Wilson

Brad and Libby (Elizabeth Hubbard) Schooley

Left to right: ?, Libby Hubbard-Schooley, Gloria Seay-Tappan, Dee Dixon-Wilson, Joe Eufinger, Jean Barron-Zwolensky and Sharon Bailey-Clayton

Touring the Alma Mater together

Libby looking through books in the library

Jim and Dee remembering walking into school together

Oops! Jim remembering too much! I guess 45 years together gives him that privilege. No, not then, but grabs the chance when he can now!!!

More 2009

Take a look at past articles from the Flint Journal to bring you up-to-date on what brought about the closing of Flint Central High School.

Flint Central High School faces uncertain future

by Kristin Longley | The Flint Journal

Sunday March 08, 2009, 12:03 PM

Stately but aging Flint Central High School on Crapo Street may be targeted for closure, but supporters fear the loss of a city gem.

FLINT, Michigan - Rumor has it, the bell tower was often the scene of stolen kisses between amorous teens. It's where notable political careers began to flourish, and the students who walked its hallways have earned millions of dollars in scholarships. Yes, Flint's Central High School has been the backdrop for thousands of special moments in the city since its inaugural Class of 1923. Now, community members are wondering whether this, Central High School's 86th year, could be its last.

Flint Journal extras About the Flint schools report

As the Flint School District prepares to close schools to save money, an advisory committee has labeled Central as "an example of possibly the worst facility" in the district. The high school, once home to as many as 2,000 students, now houses fewer than half that and is one of the most expensive schools to operate. "There's no way we can keep four high schools in Flint when student population has been reduced the way it has," said retired Genesee Circuit Judge Thomas Yeotis, a Central grad. "It's a difficult decision to make, but if it has to be Central, it's got to be Central." School administrators and the Board of Education remain quiet on the future of Central and declined to comment.

From the outside looking in, no one is certain what will become of the building at 601 Crapo St., near Mott Community College. Could it close its doors this year or the next? Will it be demolished and rebuilt? Many hope it could be renovated to retain its historical integrity -- the stately brick building with its numerous windows is one of the district's standouts -- while others fear it will simply be left alone to slowly continue deteriorating.

Former U.S. Sen. Don Riegle, a 1956 Central grad, said the high school and its surroundings should be regarded as a "treasure" belonging to the people of Flint.

Check out those hairstyles in the cafeteria at Central High School in 1968.

"It has a precious value to us," said Riegle, who now works in Washington, D.C. "It's a part of the city of Flint that exists despite all of our other problems. "When you go down and walk around that campus, what you see when you look in all directions is a public asset and civic asset of immense importance to the future of Flint."

Superintendent Linda Thompson, who has called closing a high school "really possible," said in an e-mail that there will be no talk of school consolidations before her administration presents its budget proposal to the board. That proposal is still being put together and is expected in April or May.

Still, it doesn't look good for Central, which was essentially given a failing grade by the engineering firm THA Architects Engineers of Flint. Students point out crumbling ceilings, poorly maintained bathrooms and water damage as among the most obvious problems. The facilities committee included this evaluation in its report: "A poor performer with many deficiencies including wood construction, narrow classrooms and poor building layout. Not great facility for investing future school funds."

But the school board could have a conflict on its hands if it chooses to shutter the school. Not only does Central have a staunch support network and several notable alumni - including Riegle, Yeotis, scientists and scholars - but it's also now home to about 100 Classical Academy students. The advanced academics program was displaced when the neighboring Whittier Middle School building closed last year.

The Flint JournalCentral High students leave after the end of school Friday.

The school, which graduated its first class in 1923, has been labeled "possibly the worst facility" in the district.

"There are a lot of people that still really care about what happens to Central," said Ken West, a 1976 graduate. "It has always been looked at as the 'crown jewel.' Yes, they have financial problems, but you have to have something to hang your hat on."

From the addition of the LaVoie Fieldhouse to the changing of its mascot from the Indians to the Phoenix, Central High School has seen a lot in nearly nine decades. While some view the building as old and dilapidated, its supporters point out its hidden gems - the architecture and the location. The stately building sits in the middle of the college cultural center, a stone's throw from the Flint Institute of Arts, Flint Public Library, Sloan Museum and Mott Community College.

"It should be restored," said Thomas Capua, Class of 1955 and a member of the Central Alumni Association. "It didn't look as run-down as I was prepared to see it. There's a lot of history there, and I'm afraid we're going to lose it."

It's clear that Central High School is cemented in Flint history, but this isn't the first time the school has been threatened with closure. In early 2004, the school board tentatively approved seeking a multimillion-dollar bond to renovate Central, but the proposal never materialized. In 2000, voters turned down a 25-year, $175-million bond to fix crumbling schools and build two elementary schools.

"I'm not surprised that it could close -- they've been talking about it since I was there," said Jessica Anthony, who graduated last year and now attends Wellesley College in Massachusetts. "The maintenance hasn't been kept up, and it's the most expensive to run. From a budget standpoint, it makes sense to close it."

For many alumni, the saddest part of the situation is that the school has been allowed to slowly deteriorate, said Flint resident Julie Lazar-Taylor, president of the Alumni Association. The facilities advisory committee reported that the school district's maintenance program is sorely lacking - and Central received the brunt of the neglect. Central's current condition is in stark contrast to its early days, when it was revered for its pool, two gyms, state-of-the-art laboratories and beautiful auditorium.

Grand Blanc resident Moses R. Williams, a 1958 graduate, said students referred to it as "the castle." Riegle and Dayne Walling, a Flint mayoral candidate and 1992 Central grad, both said their political careers began at the school. Riegle described his four years there as "a golden school in a golden time."

Alumni recall rowdy games in the field house, the epic rivalry between Central and Northern high schools (which, for a while, were the only two high schools in Flint) and Sadie Hawkins dances in the gym. They remember when what seemed like the entire community would attend the Thanksgiving Day football game between Central and Northern at Atwood Stadium.

Riegle, a self-described bench warmer, recalled one year when a starting player was hurt and he got to take part in two or three plays. "Even being able to run out on the field and get into the game was a big deal. The crowd was amazing," he said. "When you think in terms of an idealized high school, it would have been hard to find a better place for students than Flint Central in that decade."

Flint Schools Mull Second Plan

By Kristin Longley, The Flint Journal, Wednesday, April 16, 2009

Flint Central HIgh School could be refurbished and reopened in five years, according to a plan presented Wednesday to the Flint Board of Education.

Flint - A brand new Central High School could open in less than five years under a plan presented Wednesday night to the Flint Board of Education. The district is looking into ways to pay for rebuilding Central, Superintendent Linda Thompson said as she presented her long range facilities plan. The school board also discussed a proposal for closing more schools next year, but no decisions were made.

Central, located at the heart of the city's college cultural district, is one of five schools, and the only high school, marked for closure next month under the superintendent's cost saving budget recommendations. Flint School District officials presented an alternate plan to close additional schools next year but said it wouldresult in overcrowding. The plan would close Central and Southwestern Academy, as well as Anderson, Garfield, Merrill, Coolidge, Stewart, Wilkins, Pierce, Scott and Summerfield schools.

Thompson has said she would love to see the school rebuilt. "Central is centrally located, and I think it makes sense to pursue that option," board Vice President Paul Jordan said. But is it realistic? That remains to be seen, some said. "There's no building without the money," Jordan said.

Under the current recommendation, which would help the school district avoid a $19 million deficit, Central and five elementary schools would close at the end of the school year. Two more elementary schools would close in 2010. Thompson's long range facilities plan shows a new Central opening for the 2013-14 school year.

There was no discussion about how much it would cost. However, a member of the district's facilities committee said a new building would be cheaper than trying to rehabilitate the current structure. Estimates to renovate Central were about $27 million said attorney John Topping, chairman of the facilities committee's finance subcommittee. "That's more than it cost to build Lake Fenton High School," Topping said. "You could have a nice, brand new school for that."

Julie Lazar-Taylor, president of the Flint Central Alumni Association, said the district should reuse rather than abandon Central. She said efforts are under way to give the building a historic designation that would qualify it for additional public funds. "I think you're going to have to rebuild and remodel - That's fine with us," Taylor said. "We really just don't want to see the shell of it destroyed.

Thompson's long range plan was presented at the request of school board members, who were concerned, that closing five schools next year and two in 2010 wouldn't be enough. A recent facilities report suggested that the district could cut the number of school buildings it needs in half - closing up to 17 of the district's 35 schools. The district has about 35,000 seats right now but only about 13,500 students.

"Call it downsizing, right-sizing, whatever - it needs to be done," said Flint resident Chris Del Morone, referring to closing more schools. "It's important that you not just balance the budget."

Topping said that if the district were to close more elementary schools, the resulting savings could be used to rehabilitate the remaining elementary schools. He also said more schools need to be closed if the district wants to have a common-sense facilities plan. "I'm disappointed the superintendent hasn't brought forth a more visionary plan," he said. "There's a difference between a balanced budget and a facilities plan."

Administrators presented an option Wednesday for closing more schools, but they also highlighted one wrinkle in adding to the list of closurs - an unexpected boost in elementary students this year. The alternate option would close Central and Southwestern Academy, as well as Anderson, Garfield, Merrill, Coolidge, Stewart, Wilkins, Pierce, Scott and Summerfield schools. Administrators said the district needs to be careful about closing too fast, and school board members seemed cautious as well. "I would not want to put any students in an over-crowding position," board President Vera Perry said.

The school board will discuss the alternate plan at a retreat this weekend at the Sarvis Center.


Julie Lazar Taylor, the President of the Flint Central High School Alumni Association, will be meeting with several people next Friday to discuss the possibility of designating Flint Central as a Historical Landmark by the Genesee County Historical Society. This is the first step before the same request will be sent to the Michigan Historical Society.

Julie will be meeting with representatives from the Genesee County Historical Society, Mott Foundation, Flint School District, THA (architect) and a representative from the high school student body.

If approved Flint Central will be eligible to receive grants and funds for the preservationof the structure.

Let's all wishJulie good luck!


Flint schools should do more homework before tearing down Central High School, says letter writer

by John C. Davidek | Flint Journal letter writer

Monday December 29, 2008

As a public school educator and citizen of Flint, I read with great interest the reasoned opinion of Ruth Peterson relative to the Flint Board of Education retaining those buildings. Board members need to think very seriously before making a decision they could regret at a later date.

The architects and engineers have reported that Central High School is a dangerous and unhealthy learning environment for Flint students.

It is a sad indictment, but the real sadness is the fact that it took the group a year to travel around, visiting Flint schools in order to arrive at their conclusions.

Those experts brought together by the Board of Education seemed to be enamored with a visit they made to Lake Fenton High School - a plush, new gem of a school that could seemingly convince anyone to tear down an old building and replace it with such a glass palace for learning.

Well, I am not convinced if they recommend reducing Central to rubble. It is my suggestion that Flint send a group of citizens to visit Jackson High School in Jackson. There, they will find a magnificent, classic example of architecture that has been described as one of the most prominent high school buildings in the state.

Originally built in 1927 and located in the center of the city, it is faced in brown brick and trimmed in limestone. Jackson High School recently received a $30-million renovation from city taxpayers and others that restored the building to its glamour of yesteryear. The original building, along with existing additions, were gutted and restored with modern amenities. It is truly a showcase in the center of Jackson. In my opinion, Central could be restored in much the same manner as Jackson High School.

There are other examples of restoration projects as they pertain to centrally located high schools in our nation. I visited Central High in Little Rock, Ark., a few years ago and was struck by its architectural beauty - to say nothing of its obvious historical significance. It would be almost unimaginable to think of a modern, "state-of-the-art" building in its place. Likewise, it is almost unimaginable to me, and others in this community, that people without a clear vision of the past, coupled with a clouded glimpse of the future, would consider tearing down Central. I say look around carefully and with patience at what others have done with preserving their architectural history. And please do it before it's too late.

John C. Davidek

Central, Whittier could be used to make Flint schools best in the county

by Journal reader

Monday December 22, 2008

The Flint Board of Education should focus attention on the opportunity it has to provide an excellent education system to serve the ever-shrinking student body. Make Flint schools so good that county students will transfer into them.

At a time when historic preservation is a top priority in most cities, why not make Central High School the centerpiece of our city? Retain the building, but refurbish the interior with attention to long-term durability and updated facilities. A rolling update can be accomplished without interrupting ongoing classes. Think back to Civic Park School being rebuilt with the old facade after a major fire.

With one high school centrally located on a beautiful campus, a much greater variety of classes could be offered, for example multiple foreign languages. Whittier Middle School should also become part of the historic complex for additional class space. The centralized high school should be supported by a circle of middle schools throughout the city, which in turn can be supported by satellite elementary schools. Many of these schools are already in place. Students could utilize the Flint Cultural Center facilities to enrich their educational experience.

Perhaps the greatest advantage would be walking access to both Mott Community College and the University of Michigan-Flint. With costs for college increasing, taking some college classes while still in high school is very sensible and would easily be possible. Time and cost of college education could be reduced as many MCC and UM-Flint classes would transfer to a college of students' choice after high school graduation.

With new federal programs and funding likely to be available for updating schools, Flint should apply for this and strive to make the educational content of curriculum superior to any other county school system.

Ruth Peterson

Flint schools to outline cuts this year in wake of $10-million deficit

by Kristin Longley | The Flint Journal

Thursday November 06, 2008

FLINT, Michigan — More layoffs. More schools closing. More budget cuts. And, grim resignation from Flint residents.

"Every year it's the same thing," said Colleen Lizotte, whose grown children went to Flint schools. "It's really sad to see. They've been cutting for years."

But it hasn't been enough. Somewhere along the way, the district lost about $10 million dollars and now is facing a financial crisis requiring steep cuts that likely will include pink slips and shuttered schools, the Board of Education learned Wednesday. In a candid and no-nonsense presentation, Chief Financial Officer Andrea Derricks painted a grim future for the school district's finances.

Alarmingly, there is no money left in the district's rainy-day fund, which has held up to $10 million in recent years, and the district projects another loss over the next four years of 3,000 students - and their accompanying state aid worth about $7,700 per student, which would easily total millions more lost dollars.

"I'm not surprised at all," said Susie Willis, whose daughter is a senior at Central High School. "Students are leaving all the time. Everybody's leaving."

But enrollment losses are just one piece of the puzzle. In 2006-07, a $10-million gap grew between spending and revenue, and recent cuts haven't kept pace with the growing deficit. Superintendent Linda Thompson, who was appointed in 2007, said schools weren't closed that year despite recommendations to close six to 10 buildings.

The Flint School District has lost nearly a quarter of its students in the past several years and has closed 12 schools since 2002. Still, Chief Financial Officer Andrea Derricks said the district has too many buildings for the number of students enrolled, including:

  • 23 elementary schools for about 7,200 students
  • Five high schools for about 3,900 students
  • Two middle schools for about 1,900 students

That year also saw then-Superintendent Walter Milton Jr.'s reform plan call for more administrators, she said, even though enrollment had been declining for years. "We lost a lot of money that year and that loss compounds," she said.

Some questioned whether this should have been caught sooner. Auditor Mike Frawley told board members that "probably more should have been done" to get the $10-million deficit under control back in 2007. "There should have been better preparation and planning," said Hector Garcia, a former Flint teacher and administrator. "Now, there should be a freeze from top to bottom." Derricks is in the middle of reforming the district's spending procedures, which she said were too lax. Upon taking office, Thompson undid some aspects of the reform plan, such as the additional administrators. Four schools closed in May and several middle school teachers were laid off last month.

Still, more cuts are needed, although it's not clear how deep those cuts will be. Thompson will begin meeting with administrators next week to form a restructuring plan. "It's urgent, and it has to be done this year," she said. "It's tough but we'll come through this leaner and meaner."

Recommendations for building closures will be given to the school board in December. Ira Rutherford, a former Flint schools administrator who is heading the committee, gave an interim report recently, saying Flint Central High School is in extremely poor shape and Southwestern Academy is not far behind. Thompson said it's too soon to speculate on which buildings could be closed, since the facilities plan is still in the works.

"I'm overwhelmed with this," board member Tracey Fountain said. "How do we educate our children now to compete ... when we don't have any money?"

Flint school district faces dicey issue of closing more buildings, maybe even a high school; facilities recommendations could come this month

by Kristin Longley | The Flint Journal

Tuesday December 02, 2008

FLINT, Michigan - The details aren't clear, but one thing is certain: Sometime before this school year ends, more Flint schools will be marked for closure. "I'm as certain as I am that today is Tuesday," Superintendent Linda Thompson said yesterday. "It's a definite."

Flint school closures historically have been wildly unpopular with the public, but school leaders say they're faced with a grim reality -- the district has way too much space and not enough money and is bleeding enrollment year after year.

Without even including all the empty space in already closed schools, the district has room for more than 30,000 students -- yet they don't have half that many. About 13,800 students were enrolled this fall.

On top of that, the district is looking at a multi-million dollar deficit. "People come out in droves when we talk about school closures," Thompson said. "It's an emotional, gut-wrenching practice, but if we don't do that, we'll close everything."

The next step in determining closures could happen before the end of the month, when the facilities advisory committee is expected to release an in-depth report on the 30-plus buildings currently in use, said Ira Rutherford, former administrator and head of the committee. Rutherford said the 20-plus members have sifted for a year through mountains of information and have worked hard to tackle an issue "fraught with financial and emotional powder kegs." He said past decisions on closings weren't made as objectively as they could have been. "We're hoping this report will serve as a method of looking at (the use of facilities) more objectively," he said. "It's a good report, but there might be some heavy indictments in it." He declined to elaborate.

Ultimately, the school board will decide which buildings should be closed or consolidated. Among the criteria in the report will be building capacity, location, operating costs, condition and renovation costs. Rutherford said information on new construction also would be included, though he wouldn't comment on whether one is feasible.

Thompson was tight-lipped about which buildings could be targeted, but said closing a high school is "really possible."

None of the four schools that were closed in May - Cummings and Gundry elementaries, Johnson AAA and Whittier Classical Academy -- were high schools, which are the most expensive to operate, Thompson said.

Central High School is the oldest, most costly and in the worst shape of the high schools in use, according to last year's facilities report.

"Realistically, Central should close and they need to get down to two high schools," said former school board member Vernon Craig, who last served in 2004. "They're going to have to whittle where there's no place left to whittle."

But Central also holds 84 years worth of sentiment among members of the Flint community, and it has a strong alumni association against its closure.

Julie Lazar Taylor, President of the Flint Central High School Alumni Association, said it's a cloudy issue. "We understand that it is very old and needs repair, but it's a gorgeous building," she said. "My concern would be: What are they going to do with all that space there?" When Whittier closed in May, all of its students were relocated to Central, which is right next door. Closing Central would mean another move for Whittier students, and a lot of empty brick and mortar on Crapo Street. "I do think it's worth saving," Lazar Taylor said. "But I guess they don't see it like we do."

Craig said he hopes the school board is able to objectively assess the facilities in light of the district's urgent financial situation. "The public always starts out by saying, 'I know you have to close schools - but don't close mine,'" he said. "That has always been the root of the problem."

Flint schools committee to recommend closing 17 of 35 buildings, build new schools and seek tax hike, leader says

by Joe Lawlor | The Flint Journal

Saturday December 06, 2008

FLINT, Michigan - The school district would close nearly half of its buildings, build new schools and ask taxpayers to approve a hefty tax increase if Board of Education members approve the recommendations included in an upcoming report. Details of that report won't be made available until Dec. 17.

But longtime local educator Ira Rutherford, who is heading a committee charged with deciding what to do with the district's buildings, told board members during a Saturday morning meeting that the district should go from 35 school buildings to 18. Rutherford, former interim superintendent in Flint and former superintendent in Beecher, said a new high school and possibly a new elementary school should be constructed, and all remaining buildings should receive renovations. The price tag: $140 million to $150 million, which would go before voters in a yet-to-be-determined millage increase.

Resident Balicia Young, who was taking her son sledding at Kearsley Park, said she's happy with the pre-school program at Eisenhower Elementary School and would hate to see it close. "Didn't we just close a bunch of schools? This is ridiculous," Young said.

Rutherford said the report will detail different scenarios on where to house students. Two of those scenarios are:

  • 14 elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools.
  • 12 elementary schools, three middle schools and three high schools.

He said the report won't say specifically which buildings should close, but it will rate the buildings based on their condition as evaluated by THA Architects.Rutherford said the plan should stabilize the district's building situation for several years."The schools should be a beacon of stability for the students," Rutherford said.

Flint resident James Collins, who has grandchildren in Flint schools, said he doesn't like the idea of closing that many schools. "They should have built a new Central High School 10 to 15 years ago like they said they were going to," Collins said.

Rutherford said part of the problem is that the district has not closed enough schools to keep up with its declining enrollment, resulting in Flint having too many excess schools. And, he said, there hasn't been enough maintenance on existing buildings.

Board members realized that the big decision is going to be on in their hands laps soon. "The ball is in our court now. What are we going to do?" said board member Fred Bashir.

Superintendent Linda Thompson said she's pleased with how the committee has done its job, as it has been studying the issue for several months."This is the most objective way we have gone about closing buildings," Thompson said. "They're being evaluated without emotional attachments."

Jeff Bennett, president of THA, said learning can happen even in the buildings that are in the roughest shape.

"I've visited a lot of the schools, and the teachers were in control and the kids were learning,"

Flint schools must face hard realities at last, says Flint Journal editorial

by Flint Journal Editorial Board

Sunday December 14, 2008

The Flint Board of Education is about to receive a report recommending that it close roughly half of its school buildings. As severe as that prescription sounds, it's not as if no one saw it coming. Looking back over the past decade, if not longer, there have been voices in the wilderness warning that the district would eventually find itself in this situation unless strong action was taken. Those voices were ignored. The result: Flint finds itself with enough classroom space to seat 30,000 students -- and an enrollment of under 14,000. You do the math on that one.

Place the blame where you care to. There certainly has not been any time in the past when both the school board and the superintendent had the vision and the conviction to do what had to be done. Nor have the residents of Flint been willing to accept the kind of change that is necessary. When any single school closing generates objections and protests, how do you even dare to propose closing 17 schools?

All that inaction and opposition must come to an end though, because the Flint school system no longer has any other choice. It is going to bankrupt itself if it keeps trying to carry twice as much space as it needs. It seems the district leadership understands, and has taken an important first step by appointing a committee that's giving a hard, thoughtful look to facility needs and is expected to report its findings this week. What the committee recommends will be dramatic: the closing of many schools, the renovation of others and probably the construction of a new high school. The price tag will be considerable, up to $150 million. Superintendent Linda Thompson said the committee has done a good job of separating emotion from objective analysis. Once the findings become public, the school leadership and the community must be willing to do the same.

People have strong emotional attachments to their neighborhood schools, and there remains great reverence in Flint for the era when our schools set the standard for academics and innovation. But much has changed since then in Flint and in the school system, and the time has come to deal with the hard realities of today. The recommendations to be released this week will offer good guidance on how the district must position itself for the future. We encourage the community to be realistic, open-minded and supportive as the school board and administration come to terms with realities that have been long ignored and will not go away.