Despite missing out on a $10 million grant, Frederick County’s school district will continue with plans for a new, flexible educational school model planned at Frederick High School.
School officials said Thursday that the Linking Youth to New Experiences (LYNX) school could be funded either through grants or by donations from Frederick County businesses. The school system doesn’t have specific business partners in mind yet, spokesman Michael Doerrer said.
Only Frederick High School students would enroll in LYNX, which would allow more flexible schedules. Students could leave school in the middle of the day or enroll in evening classes. More job shadowing, online classes and vocational opportunities would also be offered. LYNX would launch with the inauguration of Frederick High School’s new building in 2017.
Had the district won the $10 million “XQ: The Super School Project” grant, organized by the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, it could have relied on that money and not worried about the price of the different elements, Doerrer said.
“We’re not doing anything differently. We’re just moving forward with a few extra steps,” Doerrer said.
Superintendent Terry Alban has until Sept. 30 to give the Frederick County Board of Education the full details of LYNX, under a state law passed this legislative session that also waived some of the state’s regulations for public schools. The plan will be submitted to the Maryland State Board of Education in December.
The school system now will work to pick out possible funding sources, and determine how much the pieces of LYNX will cost, such as teacher training, which will be a significant expense, Doerrer said.
The program has been backed by one of the state’s most prominent names in education, former state Superintendent Nancy Grasmick, who has pledged to use her connections to launch LYNX, Alban said during a previous school board meeting.
LYNX had passed the first round of the grant competition and was up against 350 other proposals. The organizers recently wrote in an email to the school district that it was not a recipient of one of the five $10 million grants, but it was still being considered for other “resources” and “possible honors” to be announced in September.
Doerrer said the school system is unsure what that means.
The school board has not taken a formal position on LYNX, President Brad Young said. He said he believes members are open to hearing more as planning for LYNX advances. At a meeting in late June, board members peppered Frederick High Principal Kathy Campagnoli, a leader in the LYNX project, with questions and concerns.
In an interview Wednesday, school board Vice President Liz Barrett reiterated her worry from the June meeting that accepting money from businesses would be a departure from how public schools are traditionally funded, through tax dollars. Working with businesses this way would require a major policy discussion on the board, she said.
The state law approved this session allows the school district to take donations from businesses to fund LYNX.
“I think that puts us firmly into privatized charter school territory, somewhere we don’t want to be,” Barrett said, stressing that she was speaking for herself and not the board overall.
She said some aspects of the school are appealing, such as the flexible schedules. She complimented Campagnoli and everyone who worked on the grant application and LYNX planning.
In an interview Thursday, Campagnoli said she was disappointed to see the grant bid fail, but the school system is dedicated to proceeding with LYNX. She said she and others would talk with the school board if a majority were uncomfortable accepting business donations. Other grants are available, too, Campagnoli said.
LYNX would benefit many Frederick High students, who are racially diverse, and some of whom are disadvantaged and work to support themselves, Campagnoli said. But she said the program could appeal to the entire student body, even honor students, who could take advantage of new, advanced courses or area internships.
“We have a diverse population and diverse needs,” Campagnoli said.
She described an online educational plan that every student would write, akin to a portfolio, that would help them plot their path through high school. Eventually, this “success plan” would help students identify what they might want to do after graduation, Campagnoli said. Soon, she will meet with middle school counselors to discuss having eighth-graders start these plans, so they won’t be surprised as they enter high school.
The school district’s communications office will arrange many forums, in person and online, for the public to weigh in on LYNX, Doerrer said. Those dates have not been determined.
“We’re committed to moving forward, and we will share information as we do so,” Doerrer said. “It’s still a great idea, regardless of whether we got the grant.”