Feds grant almost half million for Flint schools

Michael Gerstein Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — The federal government is giving $480,000 to Flint public schools to help keep kids in school after the lead-contamination crisis struck the struggling city.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education announced the grant to Flint Community Schools to reduce truancy and “restore the learning environment” following the water crisis, according to the federal department.

“Helping the people of Flint recover from this water crisis is our collective responsibility,” U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a statement Friday, the same day he was scheduled to visit Flint.

Last week the U.S. House approved $170 million to help the city rebuild its water system. The Senate had approved the money two weeks earlier.

Flint schools will use the money to hire four assistant attendance specialists who will identify and support students who miss or skip school repeatedly. They will make home visits to assess the students’ family life and work with school staff to find out ways to make sure they start showing up to school, official said.

The money will also fund three new school counselors and two school psychologists to help with students’ mental health needs. Three speech therapists will also be hired to deal with an increase in special education referrals and request for testing from parents, official said.

Experts say lead poisoning can cause severe developmental deficiencies in children exposed to the toxic substance.

Lead leached from Flint’s aging pipes and into the drinking water supply after state officials failed to require federally mandated corrosion control chemicals following the city’s 2014 switch to the highly corrosive Flint River for its water source.

U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow praised the funding in Friday statements and said the Flint crisis has caused many students to miss more days in school.

“The water crisis in Flint has impacted the entire community, particularly Flint’s children who are more vulnerable to the negative, long-term effects of lead exposure,” Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said in a statement. “This funding will ensure students in Flint can continue their education and help put the City back on the path toward a bright future.”

Stabenow, D- Lansing, called the grant money an important step in ensuring that every student in Flint has the support they need to succeed in the classroom and said it is another example of President Barack Obama’s administration working “to bring resources and funding to help the people of Flint.”

mgerstein@detroitnews.com

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