Frederick High School students might attend school during alternative hours, earn credit for dancing in a professional company, and more easily enroll in work studies and online classes.
All this would be possible under Frederick County Public Schools’ preliminary plans for a new school model at Frederick High. The new model would be immune from most state regulations that govern public schools, except for testing and graduation requirements.
How the district will fund LYNX, which stands for Linking Youth to New Experiences, remains undetermined, about 10 months before the school is scheduled to open with the new Frederick High building in the fall of 2017.
The school district was unsuccessful in trying to get a $10 million grant. Since then, school leaders have hinted that the district could pay many of the startup costs, such as the cost of teacher training, through business or community partnerships. There have been no public announcements or discussions on how much money would be required.
Much of what LYNX would offer could be paid with existing money, Michelle Shearer, a key figure in LYNX planning as project manager for high school innovation and transformation, said Tuesday in an interview.
A preliminary plan that still requires input and approval from the Frederick County Board of Education outlines in broad strokes how LYNX would serve students. The school board is scheduled to consider this plan on Wednesday.
Only Frederick High students would participate in LYNX, beginning with a class of about 300 incoming freshmen in 2017-18. The program would be gradually phased in.
This year, enrollment at Frederick High as of Sept. 30 was about 1,460 students.
Current upperclassmen could still access some services, such as online classes and a dinner break, but the school system didn’t want to disrupt their path to graduation by including them in LYNX, Shearer said.
LYNX is meant to provide new flexibility within the framework of a public high school, Shearer said. It creates a team of adults who would work and advocate on behalf of students’ needs and goals.
A new 11-month teaching position has been proposed called “Team 1 Advocates” that would help students in their first year at LYNX. Most teachers are 10-month employees.
Four of these positions have been proposed, one of which would be required to be bilingual in English and Spanish. Frederick High enrolls a high population of Hispanic and other minority students.
Outside their usual classroom duties, these teachers would be “champions” and advisers for students, Shearer said. They would supplement, not replace, traditional school counselors, she said. They would be placed on the typical teacher’s salary scale.
In the eighth-grade year for students who would go on to attend Frederick High, Team 1 Advocates would work with middle school counselors to craft a plan. This plan would help create a student’s first-year schedule at LYNX.
Students could opt for traditional face-to-face classroom instruction, from about 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., Shearer said.
Two more proposed class periods — one from 2:20 to 3:39 p.m., the other from 3:44 to 5:03 p.m. — could be dedicated to elective courses.
At night, from about 5:45 to 8 p.m., students could participate in advising or use computer labs for online learning, Shearer said.
But students could be released from campus, too. They could enroll in internships or apprenticeships, or independent studies. Instead of taking a traditional pencil-and-paper test, students could be measured for credit in other ways.
For instance, a student could receive credit in world languages by working at a community organization with deaf adults, then demonstrating a mastery of American Sign Language.
A shift to a new model of education can be a long-term investment, Shearer said. She hopes LYNX would be the first step.
She said the school system has considered working with Great Schools Partnership, a Maine-based nonprofit, to help with LYNX. She was unsure whether the nonprofit had been paid anything, but said it has already given a webinar to the school system.
LYNX has been a topic of conversation since early this year, when the Maryland General Assembly passed a law creating it. At the time, the school district hoped to win $10 million from a competition created by the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs. Contenders in the “XQ: The Super School Project” had to create a vision for the “new American high school.”
Shearer said the school district has applied some grants and can pay much of the costs already. But some services for students, such as paying cafeteria workers to provide dinner and transportation for students for off-site activities, would be extra costs.
The local school board must approve the LYNX plan by December, under the approved state law. After that, it will be submitted to the Maryland State Board of Education for review. The state board will approve any waivers of state regulation required for LYNX.
Students would not be exempted from taking required tests for graduation. Students must pass tests in algebra, English, biology and government, as well as the PARCC, formally known as Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam.
In their junior year, students must also be assessed on whether they are “college and career ready” by earning a certain score on one of a slew of approved tests, including the SAT or ACT.
Frederick County’s superintendent must evaluate LYNX annually and submit to the state board a summary of its finances and the “academic and career” progress of each student.