First day school preperation

Chris Hause, a veteran teacher at Green Valley Elementary School, prepares her classroom for the first day of school on Monday.

The 2016-17 school year will be one marked by planning as education leaders and elected officials work to ready Frederick High School’s new building for opening next school year, and prepare to launch there an educational model unlike any other in the state.

On the instructional side, meanwhile, the district must fully implement new standards for science curricula and learning, also by the beginning of next school year, all while the state of Maryland develops a new federal accountability plan this year for schools statewide.

Construction of Frederick High remains on track, with a planned opening of August 2017. The school district plans to implement a new and flexible program, called Linking Youth to New Experiences (LYNX), at Frederick High, which would allow for students to enroll in evening classes and take advantage more of online learning.

The district lost out on a $10 million national grant that would have provided the lion’s share of the initial start-up costs for the program, which would have been in part channeled toward one-time expenses such as teacher training.

In an interview, Superintendent Terry Alban said the school system will use this school year to plan out LYNX, including details of the teacher training. School system leaders are adamant that LYNX be implemented, even without the $10 million grant from a national competition organized by Apple founder Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell.

Alban has previously said that the district will possibly pitch and partner with businesses to fund LYNX. She said in her interview that the conversations about an alternative way to deliver the high school experience started long before the possibility of the grant.

The district needs to “do better” in educating certain sectors of the student population, such as those who come from low-income backgrounds, Alban said. And that’s in part the reason LYNX is planned at Frederick High, where a large portion of the population takes advantage of free-or-reduced-price meals.

Alban will present the Frederick County Board of Education with details of LYNX in September, a plan, that once approved by the local board, will be submitted to the state education board in December.

Members of the Maryland State Board of Education and the Maryland State Department of Education are in the midst of developing the new federal accountability plan required under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the recently approved federal education law. This plan will likely be submitted to the federal government in March 2017.

The state education department has formed multiple groups to weigh in and brainstorm about an ESSA plan. The new law turned over more power to the states to fashion an accountability plan, a significant change from the previous law, the widely disliked No Child Left Behind, which most educators felt imposed unfair standards and punishments on school districts.

Alban is a member of the state’s professional association for superintendents, who will provide feedback on ESSA. She’s attending the state education board’s meeting Tuesday morning to speak on behalf of the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland.

She urged parents to rely on groups they may be involved with, such as PTAs, to stay in the loop on ESSA.

Joy Schaefer, a member of Frederick County’s school board, wrote up comments on ESSA regulations that were published to the Federal Register, and submitted them on behalf of the entire board.

In these comments, the board advocated for as many decisions to remain with the states as possible.

In Maryland, new science standards, the Next Generation Science Standards, must be fully implemented by the 2017-18 school year.

Developing new curricula associated with these standards will not be as rushed or stressful as the effort in recent years of adopting the state’s version of Common Core Standards, which revamped mathematics and English curricula.

Scores for the exam associated with Common Core Standards, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) will be released soon, and so the school system will look to make sure the instruction aligns with the standards, Alban said.

Many teachers complained about the narrow window they had to rework their curricula with the Common Core Standards – but the district has worked for several years now to revamp science, because it knew the standards were in the pipeline.

Alban complimented the teachers who have spent part of their summer fleshing out new science curriculum. She recently visited a teacher training session where they were dissecting owl pellets.

Also this year is the redistricting study for the new Butterfly Ridge Elementary School, in which the school will examine which neighborhoods in western Frederick City may be directed to the new school when its doors open in August 2018. Waverley, Hillcrest and Orchard Grove Elementary schools have received information about this study.

“It’s going to be a busy year. Stay connected,” Alban urged parents. “And stay connected at the school level.”

Follow Jeremy Bauer-Wolf on Twitter: @jbeowulf.

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