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Flint school officials considering closing 4 school buildings to reduce structural deficit

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Flint school officials are considering how to respond to a multi-million dollar structural deficit.

The Board of Education heard reports on Thursday night on the district’s financial position.  

There are a variety of factors contributing to the school district's financial woes, including legacy costs.  The district is also struggling to pay for the services required for students with special needs. The percentage of special needs students in Flint public schools is twice the state average.

Superintendent Derrick Lopez says the deficit is a problem that has been developing for some time, quoting the phrase the “chickens coming home to roost.”

“At some point, the deficit and debt had to meet again if you don’t make structural changes,” Lopez told reporters after the board’s special meeting, “And so now, it’s incumbent on our team to really figure out what structural changes need to be made.”

School district officials are looking at what can be done to create a deficit elimination plan.

As part of his plan, Superintendent Derrick Lopez suggested the board should consider closing four schools. 

“Our work is around reducing our footprint and therefore our deficit will be reduced to almost nil,” says Lopez.

Lopez says other operational and budget cuts could also be made, without the need for teacher layoffs. 

Flint public schools have gone through past cycles of budget deficit and school closures.

The district has also seen a steady drop in students.  

A half century ago, the Flint public schooldistrict’s student population was more than 47,000. Today, it’s 3,700.

But Superintendent Lopez says there is a different feel in the district. Though he also expects the district may lose another 600 students in the next five years.

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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