Featured photo: Community Activist Bishop Chris Martin speaks as community members stand together to protest local schools’ reopening.
Written by Tanya Terry
According to Community Activist Bishop Chris Martin, from what he can see, even among those within his congregation who have contracted COVID-19 within the last three weeks, they are usually contracting it either from a grandchild or a child who brought it home.
Martin recently joined local parents, staff, and students of various Genesee County school districts at Cathedral of Faith Church in protest of the reopening of Genesee County schools after holiday break.
“When you look at 25,000 infections in two days in the state, we know that people have been traveling-and then you’re forcing all those kids that could be asymptomatic-it’s dangerous,” Martin exclaimed.
“It’s dangerous for the staff; it’s dangerous for parents, grandparents, caregivers,” Martin continued. “It’s very bad. You’ve got to look at how many of our staff are out sick, and the fact that bus drivers, lunch room workers and secretaries who do their job well, are now being thrust into the classroom to make up for the shortage caused by sickness.”
Sheila Beauford works as the enrollment specialist for Flint Community Schools and was part of the protest.
“I have a student at Mount Morris; I have a student in junior high-and another who attends the Transition Center, who what saved them from being quarantine is because I had them vaccinated,” Beauford expressed. “With them releasing these mask mandates, they can bring it home.”
Beauford said one of her concerns is that her spouse is medically fragile and can’t contract COVID, though he is fully vaccinated.
“It won’t hurt to wait a few weeks (for students to go back to school) to save some lives,” Beauford added.
Jenesis Dones, age 17, said though most of her peers at Carman-Ainsworth High School are vaccinated, a lot of them are not. She said she was debating whether she would go back to school if students were still being expected to on January 3.
“If I go back to school, I’m definitely keeping a mask on 100%-because I just don’t feel it’s safe for us to go back without a mask…especially coming off of break, coming off of different holidays,” Dones said.
Dones’ mother said she feels her daughter should not have to go back to school.
“But, if she has to go back to school, I don’t want it to be counted against her; she will be masked up,” Kesi Dones added.
Marlis Settle is an attendant agent at Flint Community Schools. She monitors the students’ attendance and goes to homes.
Settle believes teachers should have been set up to teach strictly virtually, and give the option of in-person learning to those who desire it. She also thinks alternating groups of students to come to the schools two days a week is an option that would have been worth exploring.
Settle’s grandsons also attend Brownell STEM Academy. Both of them have asthma and she fears having to take them to the hospital if they get COVID.
“I want them to remain in this school system, but I want them to be safe,” Settle said. “It’s not safe, and it’s not fair.”