Liz Barrett

Frederick County Board of Education member Liz Barrett at a September 2019 board meeting.

Just days before the first day of instruction for Frederick County Public Schools, a board member suggested delaying the start date by a week.

Frederick County Board of Education member Liz Barrett announced in a tweet Wednesday morning that she had asked her fellow board members to consider delaying the first day of school, which is this coming Monday, Aug. 31.

“This Board member does not believe FCPS teachers and staff and students and families have the tools, support, access, and consistent direction to open...I have asked fellow Board members to delay school start a week to allow time for many systemic improvements,” the tweet said.

In a subsequent email, Barrett said she feels the school system is unprepared to begin instruction and that there are still too many unresolved issues surrounding virtual learning that could end up having an impact on policy and curriculum.

“We need to step up leadership. Hope and positivity are not strategies here,” Barrett said.

However, after a day of back and forth with other board members, a statement was issued late Wednesday from the Board of Education, with Barrett’s name included, asking the FCPS community to be patient with the rollout of the virtual model. Modifications are bound to be necessary, the statement said.

“This is, and will continue to be, a learning process for all stakeholders....with the current situation, all preparation that occurs in a regular year has multiplied,” the statement read. “Our educators are attempting something they have never experienced themselves, and yet they are already making amazing strides with designing virtual classrooms, creating teaching spaces, learning new technology, and implementing all of the other aspects of this unique beginning.”

The statement came after other board members seemed uninterested in Barrett’s request to delay the first day.

Board member Michael Bunitsky said in an email that he disagreed with Barrett’s feelings on the matter.

He said the proposals and actions presented by FCPS staff to tailor learning for individuals and schools will never be good enough for all but that they are as up to date as can be given the current environment.

“School should begin as soon as possible. Course corrections may be necessary. No one is served by postponing the start of this experiment in education,” Bunitsky said. Board President Brad Young agreed.

“We are in unprecedented times, it will never be perfect. We need to open and make adjustments,” Young said in an email.

School Superintendent Terry Alban said in an email that she understands there is some anxiety about the start of the school year, but she is confident FCPS will do all it can to make the start of the year as successful as possible. That doesn’t mean adjustments won’t be needed.

“Our teachers are professional educators who will make the necessary adjustments to improve the virtual environment for students as they go forward. This is the same as adjusting lessons in a classroom once you get to know your students better,” Alban said.

She added that it’s critical for the school system to remain flexible in what is a constantly changing situation.

“Since March, there have been many changes in regulations, waivers of requirements, new mandates...this is not going to change in the weeks or months ahead,” Alban said. “Our success as a system depends on our ability to adapt to these changing circumstances and to maintain our focus on our students. We are ready to do this as a team.”

For the first day of school to be delayed, a majority of board members would first have to be interested in simply discussing the idea.

If that were the case, then logistics would come into play. The board would have to convene an emergency meeting, set an agenda and advertise it to the public, and make a decision in less than three days.

Not only is there not enough time to go through the process of holding a meeting, Young said, but there also isn’t enough time to get the needed information from FCPS staff on what effect a delayed start date would have.

Questions about the academic calendar, school sports, and other logistics would all have to be worked out.

“You would be talking about eight to 10 minimum hours of discussion,” Young said.

Furthermore, Young said he has yet to see any evidence that shows how a delayed start date would help.

Even though her name was on the final statement sent out, Barrett said earlier in the day that her fellow board members’ comments just weren’t enough.

“While my colleagues may feel comfortable with hope and faith, I believe in processes, strategy, and clear communication,” she said.

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill.

(34) comments

threecents

Sorry, I did not get what problem Liz caused by voicing her concerns. Why is the FNP upset that she spoke her mind?

llrowse

Mike Bunitsky says FCPS is ready. Mike taught for years for FCPS. He was not only a great teacher, he successfully directed Social Studies, and other disciplines which fell under that umbrella. Mike has no problem being the burr under your saddle, and a protester of ill conceived plans. Mike loudly protests. He’s not protesting this plan.

Take this under consideration when considering Liz Barrett’s pronouncement

NewMarketParent

@llrowse

Truthfully though. It really doesn't matter at this point. We really just need to keep pushing. We owe it to our kids and if we figure out that we could have done better, then we regroup for the next time around.

llrowse

NewMarketParent - Agreed.

NewMarketParent

The only way this works is if the staff of FCPS is as flexible as they expect the parents to be.

newspostreader

As someone who works in the education field, a week is going to change nothing. Regardless of the start date, teachers are going to learn as they go, and that is okay. It will all work out.

vodalone

Work out as in kids will have full year learning for the next two or three years because they're so behind.

Dwasserba

Towson State went to all-virtual after being open less than a week. 55 kids tested positive at the on-campus check right off. Many more were tested at other places of their choice.

KellyAlzan

Brad Young is messing up a lot lately. Laying off drivers and cafe staff. Foolish brad is.

bd0830

Can I ask why it is foolish to lay people off when there is no work for them to do? I sympathize with anyone losing their job. It’s a terrible thing. I was hoping FCPS would have worked harder to bring in person classes back like the private schools in the county have managed to do. Hopefully this happens as quickly as possible so any layoffs will be short lived.

hayduke2

I think part of the issue is what happens when these folks go elsewhere or find employment at another position. I agree it is hard to envision them doing something useful in FCPS given their previous job but was an effort made to "think out of the box?"

NewMarketParent

@KellyAlzan

I pleaded with Brad to ignore the hybrid option of the plan and put more time and effort into the virtual plan. Brad's only defense was that the plan was a draft.

Aperiodic.Moralist1

[thumbup]

fredneck

I have been saying for months and will continue to say: FCPS IS NOT PREPARED TO SUCCESSFULLY AND EFFECTIVELY DELIVER VIRTUAL SCHOOLING.

NickB

They are as ready as they will ever be. Let’s just start already.

joelp77440

Yes, they weren't ready in the spring but we made it work. They are much more prepared now but is it perfect, no it is not. Perfection is an unobtainable goal.

Greg F

Is it that or is it you are just not ready for it? Seems the latter.

vodalone

What a mess. They had nearly 3 months to figure this out and now want to delay the start of the school year because they're unprepared. 🤦‍♂️

TomWheatley

or get your name in the paper and can point back to this for election purposes. If there is truly concern here, why wait until 2.5 days away from opening?

vodalone

I think there truly is concern, but nothing that can be fully fixed in a week. Like majority of the board said, they'll be figuring all this out as they go. 1st semester will be a disaster, 2nd one will be better.

NickB

Teachers are already somewhat experienced. As long as all parties put forth a good faith effort, it can work. I am more interested in the board completing the discussion of which students can come into buildings for extra support. They also need to facilitate that with appropriate transportation options. That’s how the board can help.

NickB

Exactly.

Cowell

[thumbup] Yep!

Greg F

Yep....exactly Tom.

hayduke2

Tom - my thoughts too. If this was a concern, the fact that you waited until it was almost "go time" is inexcusable. My experience with teaching staff is that they were expecting this to be the case, prepared for it, and will , despite the issues that will arise, give it their best effort.

NickB

Not they - Liz Barrett. Only Barrett.

sjkmg1998

It is always Barrett and only Barrett.

duffy5x

Go ahead. Teach. I dare you.

sjkmg1998

My sentiments exactly.

Greg F

This is one person who seems to think this. That decision is not made in a vacuum. It is not made by just that person. Our kid had no issues the way it went in spring...and surely it is better now that there has been a summer to get things better than even that was. They should have seen this coming...everyone should have unless they were under a rock or a Devoss devotee.

vodalone

If your kid had no issues in the spring, they are in the very very rare minority.

dput4

‘They’ don’t, ‘she’ does. Just one person. The rest of the board doesn’t agree as far as I can tell

awteam2000

I thought several months ago the presidential position was there where only a few cases, shortly to be none? There mistake was listening to the executive administration’s direction.

awteam2000

Sorry 😐 “were” instead of where 🥴

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