Brownell and Holmes schools welcomed back 7th- and 8th-grade students this fall

FLINT, Michigan — In early July, the Flint Community Schools Board of Education voted to close the Flint Junior High School building due to the building’s severe repair needs. Due to this, over 400 7th- and 8th-grade students will now be attending the newly rebranded Holmes STEM Middle School Academy this fall. 

Brownell STEM Academy, which previously served grades K-2, will also be taking on the task of educating an extra 174 children in grades 3-5. This will double the number of students attending the school. Holmes’ numbers will also double as its enrollment numbers rise from 245 during the 2019-2020 school year to approximately 500 students in the 2020-2021 school year.

Despite the seemingly large shift in enrollment, much of the Brownell and Holmes staff are already familiar with the arrangement. Many of the middle school-aged students will be returning to Holmes after a one-year stay at Flint Junior High. Formerly Northwestern High School, Flint Junior High was only in operation for the 2019-2020 school year. 

Prior to Flint Junior High, Holmes served students in grades 3-8. Davina Whitaker, a 6th-grade teacher at Holmes, says she’s more excited for the change than anything else.

“The good thing about Holmes is that it was already set up as a middle school. … There is a lot of space and (the school district) seems to have laid out a pretty good plan as for where the 7th- and 8th-graders will be,” Whitaker says. 

As with many other schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitaker is worried that the school may not be able to hold 500 students while still following social distancing guidelines. 

“I think the problem would be, if we did go back to the building, the space of the classroom. How would we fit, let’s say, 30 students in a classroom that’s supposed to be keeping students six feet apart?” Whitaker says. 

According to her, trying to follow these guidelines will require furniture like bookshelves to be moved out of the classroom. 

Whitaker says many of her coworkers share her enthusiasm for returning to class in the fall, whether in-person or virtually. 

She believes giving students the opportunity to use technology for educational purposes will help students with their technological literacy and help them see computers as tools. 

"I’m very excited to be with the staff that I’m with, (doing) the training we’re doing. Everyone seems to be on board,” Whitaker says. “We want to give students a real opportunity to just use technology the way it’s intended to be used. We want to get students on there and have them do their work and see it as a tool for learning, not just a tool for playing.”

Read more articles by Santiago Ochoa.

Santiago Ochoa is a freelance reporter and communications student at UM-Flint. He is the project editor for On The Ground community reporting series and currently serves as The Michigan Times' Editor-in-Chief. Santiago has worked with publications and organizations like The New York Times, the Interamerican Press Association and Flint Beat. You can reach him @santi8a98 on Twitter and Instagram and email him at [email protected]
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