Renovation of shuttered school will expand access to early education for Flint kids

$1.5 million project at the former Cummings Elementary School should be completed by mid-September

Renovation of shuttered school will expand access to early education for Flint kids
Photo: Cristina Wright

Flint, Michigan — The transformation of a shuttered elementary school into a hub of early childhood education services is underway in Flint, thanks to $1 million in funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and $500,000 from the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, a program of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation.

The grants to the Foundation for the Uptown Reinvestment Corporation (FURC) are covering the costs of renovations at the former Cummings Elementary School, located on the city’s southwest side. The project includes extensive physical improvements to the school and surrounding campus, as well as the addition of new technology and furnishings. The Uptown Reinvestment Corporation, a supported organization of FURC, is overseeing the renovations.

The school is expected to reopen by mid-September as the site of the Great Expectations Early Childhood Program. The program will serve up to 220 area children ages 2 months to 5 years and will be available free of charge to Flint families affected by the city’s water crisis.

The improvements at the school will create a welcoming space in which educators, families and area partners can work together to help children get a strong start on their educational journey, said Mott President Ridgway H. White.

“It’s essential that all Flint kids have access to the best educational opportunities, beginning as early as possible,” he said. “The good news is that there are a lot of people, organizations and government agencies working together to make that a reality.”

The joint philanthropic support for the renovations at Cummings, which closed in June 2015 as part of a restructuring by the Flint Community Schools (FCS) District, is just one example of that collaborative effort, said White. The Great Expectations program is a partnership of FCS, the University of Michigan-Flint and the Genesee Intermediate School District. State and federal funding will help support the program, and a $600,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) will increase access to high-quality early learning opportunities by helping early childcare providers at the Cummings site and throughout the community identify and address the educational, behavioral and health needs of children exposed to lead as a result of the city’s water crisis.

Studies have found that lead exposure can spark developmental delays and behavioral challenges among children. High quality early childhood programs are key to mitigating those impacts, but the need for such services in Flint currently outpaces the available slots by four to one.

The launch of the new program at Cummings is an important step towards balancing that equation, noted J.B. Pritzker, board chair of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation.

“High quality early childhood education, health care and nutrition are essential to ensuring that each child achieves their full potential,” he said. “The Cummings renovations will allow Flint’s children increased access to high quality programs during the critical first five years.”

It’s essential that all Flint kids have access to the best educational opportunities, beginning as early as possible. The good news is that there are a lot of people, organizations and government agencies working together to make that a reality.” Ridgway H. White, Mott Foundation president

For FCS Superintendent Bilal Tawaab, the expansion of early childhood programs holds the potential for strengthening the overall educational system in Flint.

“We know that early, high quality experiences can help create a solid footing for a child’s educational career,” he said. “Making those opportunities available to all our kids is fundamental to ensuring their future growth and success, and that of the greater Flint community.”

In May, Mott, WKKF and eight other foundations announced a joint commitment of up to $125 million to help Flint recover and rise from the water crisis. That pledge includes up to $100 million over the next five years — as much as $50 million the first year alone — from Mott. The J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation is the latest philanthropy to engage in the collaborative funding effort.

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The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, established in 1926 in Flint, Michigan, by an automotive pioneer, is a private philanthropy committed to supporting projects that promote a just, equitable and sustainable society. It supports nonprofit programs throughout the United States and, on a limited geographic basis, internationally. Grantmaking is focused in four programs: Civil Society, Environment, Flint Area and Education. In addition to Flint, offices are located in metropolitan Detroit, Johannesburg and London. With year-end assets of approximately $2.7 billion in 2015, the Foundation made 400 grants totaling more than $119 million. For more information, visit

Through its Pritzker Children’s Initiative, the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation has long been a champion of quality early learning. For more than 15 years, the Pritzker Children’s Initiative has been committed to a single, attainable goal: that all at-risk children throughout the U.S. will have access to high quality early childhood development resources, increasing their likelihood of success in school and life. With a focus on the importance of birth to age three, the Initiative supports programs that unlock public and private investments in early childhood development, increase the supply and reach of evidence-based interventions, and accelerate innovation and knowledge sharing.

The Flint Community Schools (FCS) is an urban public school system with about 5,400 students and 500 employees. The district has a long and rich tradition of community education, and provides a range of academic, extended services and extracurricular activities to meet the needs of local students and their families. Its mission is to develop a community of learners that is prepared to live, work and contribute to an ever-changing society. To learn more about FCS and its various programs, visit