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Flint residents question school closing plan

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Flint school officials heard from the public last night for the first time on a plan to close more city schools

People who packed the meeting came to have their questions answered and their voices heard. They at least had their questions answered. But school officials only took written questions. 

The public hearing did not include actual public comment.

That frustrated Flint City Councilman Wantwaz Davis, and others who oppose closing the three schools.

“This is the way to run people out of this city,” Davis shouted from the audience.

Larry Watkins is Flint’s interim school superintendent.  

He defends just taking written questions from the audience, instead of giving people a chance to speak.

“We wanted to be transparent and answer as many questions as we possibly could,” says Watkins.

Watkins expects people will be given a chance to speak against the school closing plan when the Flint school board takes it up in May. The board needs to make a decision before it acts on the district’s budget for next year.   

Closing the schools will help slash the school district’s $21.9 million budget deficit by a third. 

The district has a seven-year plan to eliminate its deficit. 

Watkins admits the plan to close three schools and realign three others will be “painful."  But he hopes the district can make a “smooth transition.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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