In a year when the state gave scheduling power back to local school boards, Frederick County is already exploring more efficient scheduling.
Next school year, Frederick County Public Schools high school graduations will be bumped back a week. Board of Education President Brad Young said at a joint meeting this week of the school board and County Council that graduation dates will be pushed back a week in order to spread them out over the course of five days and have only two ceremonies per day. In past years, the 10 public high school graduations have been the four days after Memorial Day.
Along with the graduation date change, County Councilman Jerry Donald suggested moving forward the start date for schools in order to help with closing the achievement gap. Dates set for standardized tests, from which the achievement gap is measured, are imposed on the county by state and national mandates.
Often, the dates for those are such that students are being tested on material they haven’t yet learned in the curriculum. If the district bumped up its start date, students would have more time to learn the material for the tests and the school system could make strides in closing the achievement gap, Donald said.
Donald, who is also an FCPS teacher, added that start dates for fall sports and extracurricular activities, such as band, which is usually Aug. 1, would not have to be changed. The change could occur over several years, Donald said.
The schedule change is an option now because the Maryland General Assembly overturned an executive order from Gov. Larry Hogan that required schools in Maryland to start after Labor Day. The change gave full school calendar scheduling back to each local board of education.
“I understand the governor’s thinking,” Donald said. “I just think he shot for the wrong holiday.”
The mandate should have required schools finish before Memorial Day, Donald said.
In other business, Young also informed the council that 2,096 students had graduated from FCPS high schools this year, with 25 gaining admittance to Ivy League colleges and universities.
A large portion of the meeting focused on the Educational Facilities Master Plan for fiscal 2021. The Board of Education and Janice Spiegel, education liaison to the county executive, informed the council that school projects for Brunswick and Liberty Elementary had been moved into the fiscal 2021 facilities plan, although these were simply recommendations.
These projects could be pushed depending on factors that come into play over the next two years. But the projects had to be listed since they were considered “needs” of the school district.
There was also a short discussion of the Linganore-Oakdale-Urbana redistricting project. FCPS Chief Operating Officer Paul Lebo said refinements will be made to the draft options that had been presented to the public in June before the superintendent makes her formal recommendation to the school board in September.
The last joint meeting with the two boards was held 18 months ago, and no date has been set for the next joint meeting.