Flint schools struggle with enrollment during water crisis - WNEM TV 5

Flint schools struggle with enrollment during water crisis

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FLINT, MI (WNEM) -

Running a school district is a big job for anyone, but one local school district faces more challenges than most.

Now school leaders are getting themselves ready for another year in education, struggling through Flint's water crisis.

"I would say the greatest challenge is the water crisis," Flint schools Bilal Tawwab said.

Tawwab is gearing up for his third year as head of Flint's 11 school buildings and 12 educational programs. Unlike his counterparts, he faces a big question unique to his district - how has the poisoning of Flint's water supply impacted its children?

"We have kids who are feeling very uncertain and really have questions. But that true impact on their development I'm not seeing yet," Tawwab said.

He said his plan to turn things around has to work for all kids - those impacted by the water crisis and those with other needs.

It's something the district can't do on its own. The district is still digging out of debt so local foundations and nonprofits have stepped up to support his community focused plan that provides summer and after school programs, along with social services for families.

"We have a lot of community support and the citizens. The citizens take a lot of pride in Flint Community Schools," Tawwab said.

It's no secret the school system has been hurting for some time, well before the water crisis. With some of the highest poverty levels in the state, the system has seen enrollment numbers decline for years.

Last year the district served about 5,000 students, a fraction of the students available in Flint.

"There's a total of about 15, 16,000 school-age kids in the city of Flint and we have only about a third of that market share," Tawwab said.

He said the system is far from where he wants it to be, but he's confident they're taking the right steps to get there.

Tawwab asks the community to have faith Flint schools can educate every child.

"I know some folks have a perception of you know, this may be happening in our buildings or that may be happening. But I welcome you to come visit a Flint community school and you'll be surprised at the great things that are happening behind those doors," Tawwab said.

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