Frederick County school board members are pressing for a budget and other details of a new flexible program planned at Frederick High School.
The program — called LYNX, or Linking Youth to New Experiences — would let Frederick High students attend school at off hours and possibly earn credit through activities and work experiences outside the school building.
Local school leaders are touting LYNX as an innovative, unprecedented model of public education to such a degree that it is exempt from most state regulations pertaining to schools.
A preliminary plan — a basic framework for LYNX — has been released. The school board must approve this plan by December to comply with state law. But nuances of LYNX remain undecided or have not been shared with the public, or with the board.
At its meeting on Wednesday, the Frederick County Board of Education questioned the team charged with creating LYNX — primarily Kathy Campagnoli, the Frederick High principal, and Michelle Shearer, the project manager for high school innovation and transformation.
Board members wanted specifics about how LYNX would operate, such as the process for how students could show they’ve mastered a subject, or earn high school credit, with a portfolio of their work.
They wanted to know how certain activities could be considered for credit, and how much credit, and how that would be determined.
Campagnoli said after the meeting that some specifics of LYNX have yet to be worked out. The school will open about 10 months from now, in the fall of 2017 with the new Frederick High building.
Some offerings at LYNX will hinge on what classes the incoming class of about 300 freshmen sign up for in January, and their interests, Campagnoli said after the meeting.
Liz Barrett, the board’s vice president, wanted to see a copy of the program’s prospective budget, and the costs beyond what might be covered by the school system’s operating budget.
The school district recently lost out on a $10 million grant that it hoped would subsidize LYNX.
A budget has been sketched out, Campagnoli and Shearer said, and is being tweaked to pinpoint more savings. A large expense will be new technology, but the system has secured a grant for teacher training through Title II of federal education law. The amount of the grant was not specified during the meeting.
“I like the planning here, but there’s the overcommitment piece, where to deliver on this promise, it’s a big deal,” Barrett said. “The money is great. We need to see the money. I need to see the money.”
The board will receive information on the budget and proposed student advocate positions — teachers who also work with LYNX students to develop plans guiding them through high school.
Board members also wanted to know how a student’s first year at LYNX would look.
Superintendent Terry Alban tried to bring the focus back to the scope of the plan that the board is charged with approving by Dec. 1. Some of what the board asked for did not need to be included in the plan that was requested by the Maryland General Assembly, Alban said.
The General Assembly created LYNX with a state law this past legislative session. As part of the law, the plan the local board approves must describe in broader terms how students earn credit, as well as elements such as the use of online courses and LYNX’s hours of operations.
Once the local board approves that plan, it will be sent to the Maryland State Board of Education, which will grant the necessary waivers of state regulation to operate LYNX.
“As policymakers, there are some ‘how’ pieces — how, what, who, where, when and why things — that we have to understand to feel confident knowing that you can implement,” Barrett told Alban at the meeting. “And I don’t know that all of us are there entirely.”