Troy Barnes, Monocacy Elementary students

Monocacy Elementary School Principal Troy Barnes assists students onto a bus in April. Frederick County Public Schools plans to bring elementary school students back to the classrooms four days a week beginning May 10.

Frederick County elementary schools will bring in students four days a week beginning May 10.

The announcement came Tuesday with an updated agreement signed between the Frederick County Board of Education, Frederick County Teachers Association (FCTA), Frederick Association of School Support Employees (FASSE) and Frederick County Administrative and Supervisory Association (FCASA).

A Frederick County Public Schools statement said the new memorandum of understanding (MOU) will provide additional in-person learning opportunities for elementary students when possible while still incorporating guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The updated MOU came about after board members received pushback from the unions after the board initially supported a four-day model in early April. The unions said the board had violated the agreement that was in place. The board rescinded its original decision April 21 and resumed negotiations with union leaders.

Many of the same health and safety provisions and procedures for employees are included in the updated MOU. However, it now stipulates that elementary school principals begin developing plans to bring in the maximum number of students possible for four days a week of in-person instruction. The MOU states that the new learning model will begin May 10, and schools are expected to be fully transitioned by May 17. The last day of school for the 2020-2021 school year is June 17.

In an email, Superintendent Terry Alban said administrators have already been thinking about options for their schools.

"The biggest logistical challenges will be determining if there is enough room in the classroom; identifying locations for lunch and whether or not they need to use desks or tables; ensuring appropriate coverage for additional spaces that are being used," she said.

Social distancing at the elementary level will be reduced to three feet—per CDC guidance—when students are masked. During meal times or when students are unmasked, six feet must be maintained.

The updated agreement states that each school will attempt to make the transition without changes to teacher and classroom assignments for students if possible. Additionally, to aid in the transition, the agreement allows each elementary school to designate two upcoming Wednesdays as asynchronous learning days. Students will learn independently at home on those designated dates. Families will be notified by their individual schools regarding the asynchronous days.

The number of students that each elementary school will be able to bring in will be based on available space and how many families have expressed interest.

When asked what would happen if a school does not have enough space to accommodate every student who wishes to come in, Alban said central office staff have been "working on a matrix to guide decisions and provide consistency across the district. Principals will work with individual families to identify options."

Bus transportation has also been modified at the elementary level with the updated MOU. Each bus will now allow up to 22 students and will provide additional spacing with an empty seat around drivers and assistants. Car ridership is being encouraged by FCPS as space on buses will be limited.

The updated MOU also states that FCPS human resources will recruit additional temporary staff to provide coverage in school buildings during breakfast and lunch. Central office staff may also be used to help with coverage.

Families were surveyed about their desire for a four-day model in early April. According to Alban, a majority of students who currently attend school in person will transition to four days, although families may remain in a two-day model if they wish. There are also some students who are currently all virtual who will come in for four days, Alban said. Overall, about 70 percent of FCPS students will be accessing some form of in-person instruction. 

Missy Dirks, president of FCTA, said the updated agreement meets the association's goals.

"To always lead with safety first, it does keep in place the health and safety guidelines by the CDC but doesn’t go further than that," she told the News-Post. "It also provides some of the logistical support that is needed to make this change happen. Time for [staff] to make necessary changes and notifications for families."

Amy Schwiegerath, president of FCASA had a similar statement.

"There are many facets to having students in our buildings...the vision of our Board of Education coupled with the support of our strong central office leadership has allowed to implement a smooth and equitable transition for every student," she said in an email.

Ideally, there would be more time to plan for the transition, Dirks said, and she expects many schools will take up to May 17 to fully implement the new model.

The associations compromised on the prep time though due to the limited amount of time left in the school year, she said.

Dirks also reiterated that FCTA was never opposed to bringing in students four days a week. That's already happening in many schools, she said.

"It’s been about the logistics and the workload and the time to actually accomplish it safely and still adhering to CDC guidelines ... we wanted to make sure it happened in a healthy and safe manner and in a manner that didn’t blatantly violate our contract," Dirks said.

Board president Jay Mason said in an email board members are happy there will be more in-person learning opportunities for students and that he is glad a collaborative approach was taken to achieve the goal.

However, Mason said he was worried that such a sudden change could be difficult for some.

"Our elementary schools are very different, so there will be some that make the transition easily. Recently, I have talked to enough principals to know the change will take some time planning, and there may not be enough time," Mason said. "I know they will make it work because that is the mentality of educators."

He asked parents and students to work collaboratively with their schools over the next week and said he is looking forward to a sense of normalcy for the next school year.

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill

(25) comments

jth7100

Either Biden won by 7 million votes, or it's a stolen election? By the way, local school boards open schools, not unions nationally or locally SFB.

jth7100

Still waiting Bosco. Did Biden win legally or not?

mmn0622

Frederick News Post, you may want to revise your article. Not all elementary schools are starting on May 10.

Reader1954

Parents can't go back to work until kids are in school

bosco

What do those parents do in the summer?

phydeaux994

Drop the kids off at the pool.

FrederickFan

Just think, this decision could have happened a few weeks ago if the Board of Education members had followed their own process and met with the unions first who were clearly open to change and bringing more students to school. The delay and flip flop rests with four BOE members who didn't so their homework, follow directions, or problem solve.

bosco

So President House Plant won't stand up to the AFT and open schools, tells us we can gather in our backyards for a cookout to celebrate Independence Day, wears a mask outdoors and panics at an outdoor event when he couldn't find his mask - but visits President Carter and the Former First Lady without wearing a mask?

It's over folks. Burn your mask and start living. The hypocrisy of Hidin' Biden and the big government radical left has been exposed.

marinick1

[thumbup][thumbup] As usual, bosco, you're right ON! [smile]

marinick1

Problem is, bosco, that the Left is aware of their own hypocrisy, yet they're no longer embarrassed by it. They flaunt it.

bosco

So true, [lol][lol][lol][lol] and that's why I like to point it out and watch them get their knickers in a twist trying to defend things like Quid Pro Joe's open borders or Hidin' Biden wearing a mask outdoors but visiting the elderly indoors without a mask. You gotta love it.

phydeaux994

marinick1, you spoke a whole sentence!! Next time try telling the truth. Peace.✌️😷

shiftless88

Wow, you sure make decisions based on weird criteria. Which makes sense I guess given that you are a Trump supporter.

Hayduke2

You do know the commenter you responded to has nothing better to do then try to push buttons. He is operating on a fourth or fifth grade level..

bosco

Whattsa matter hayduke? Don't like your turn in the barrel with President House Plant and Vice President Mattress? They've really got a handle on the border situation with kids in cages and money flowing to the cartels after Quid Pro Joe raised his hand and pledged free health care for illegals. Has CommaLA even been to the border to see what she's in charge of?

Hayduke2

Thanks for validating my post.

Dwasserba

Feb. 24, AP news: the Carters were fully vaccinated.

patomd969

FCPS Open? Not open? Open? Not open? I'm beginning to think that brain damage is one of the side effects of the vaccine.

HappySeller2014

This is good news. Glad everyone came together for the children. Hopefully, an easy transition. Best wishes to the kids, teachers, administrators and school staff.

vodalone

I'm all in favor of getting all kids back in the classroom ASAP, but changing things up this late into the school year makes no sense. It will be for one month since the school year ends on June 17.

Jthomas515

Agree. Has to me other reasons too

shiftless88

Yep; make up your da** mind!

TaraS

I totally agree.

Frankle1

Agree 100% what a mess. So much time, planning, resources, for what? One month? Seems crazy. Looks like things will be ready for full opening in the fall though so good luck to everyone through the summer.

tomlin3

You're right... What a mess... This late in the school year just doesn't make any sense at all! It doesn't sound like anyone is concerned about the stability of the kids or teachers (let alone the sanity of those juggling in-class AND virtual at the same time).. Teachers will again (in many instances), be gaining new students, many students may be adjusting to new teachers, new in-school rules (including additional complications with distancing)... and the list goes on. By the time everyone gets "settled-in" to the new teaching environment, zap...summer vacation will be here. How many actual teaching days are we talking about? Maybe 24 - take away several days to re-re-adjust to the newest school year calendar... Sending my best to all who have to make this change once again at this late time... You deserve many thanks, a huge raise and a well-deserved summer break!

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