Frederick County Public Schools is planning one of the most robust and comprehensive summer programs in its history to help students re-acclimate after more than a year of virtual and hybrid learning.
Board members were briefed on the 11 different programs FCPS is planning for the summer during their Wednesday meeting.
A theme of all the programs will be to focus on the “whole child,” officials said, and the school system is putting a particular focus on social-emotional learning.
Dana Falls, director of student services for FCPS, said part of this focus will include 30 minutes of daily social-emotional learning for all elementary and summer programs and “mindfulness minutes” in every class at the high school level. Building social connections between students will also be a high priority.
“We want to make sure this summer program provides [students] exactly what they need, and we want to make sure every student has the opportunity for social experiences, so we’ve made recess a requirement at the elementary and middle school levels and allocated social time at the high school level,” said Jennifer Bingman, director of system accountability and school improvement.
Staff also reiterated that the summer programs will be about moving forward and not necessarily re-learning.
“We don’t want it to be about teaching fourth grade to fourth graders, we want to make sure fourth graders are ready for fifth grade and the first day of school,” Bingman said.
If staffing for all the programs is completely filled, FCPS will be able to offer summer programming to more than 8,000 students. However, FCPS staff indicated to board members that filling positions has been challenging.
There are still about 200 teaching positions unfilled as well as numerous health room and transportation positions. To help with staffing, FCPS is offering 10 percent premium pay and opportunity for credit for certified teachers. The school system is also working to recruit former interns, retired employees and other volunteers.
The programs will run during the months of June and July and will operate from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the high and middle school levels and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the elementary level. Bus transportation will be provided to all students as well as free breakfast and lunch.
So far, none of the programs have reached their student capacity, and Bingman admitted that the timing of the programs may be a challenge to families who don’t want to start their summer days early.
The thought with the timing, she said, was to allow older students the chance to work at summer jobs in the afternoon and the opportunity for teachers to spend their afternoons at home with their own families.
Board member Liz Barrett asked if the timing could be changed, but Bingman said the barrier is if staff can’t be recruited, then fewer spots will be available for students.
Overall, most board members praised the work of FCPS staff, but many also expressed the need to get the word out and make sure students and families are aware of the opportunities.
“I think it’s just great and super work you have done ... but I think communication is so critical with this ... we just want to do whatever we can to make sure everybody knows about this,” said board member Sue Johnson.
Parents can reach out to their individual schools if interested in programming, and schools are working on identifying students as well, said Jamie Aliveto, executive director of system accountability and school administration.
FCPS Superintendent Terry Alban said she is proud of how far the planning has come.
“I don’t think people realize this was half a year of preparation ... I also wanted to thank those who signed up [to work] because we know how exhausted everyone is,” Alban said. “I’m just sitting here like a proud mama — there’s no other way to describe it.”
A full list of available summer programming and descriptions can be found on the FCPS BoardDocs website.