Frederick County Public Schools will ask the state to waive 12 school days missed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is seven more than the Maryland State Department of Education indicated it would allow.
When public schools across the state shut down without instruction for two weeks in early March, school districts suspected they would be required to make up those days at the end of the year.
As the closure extended, the state board of education voted to give State Superintendent Karen Salmon the authority to waive five days for school districts that requested it. Meaning, five days out of those first two weeks would not have to be made up.
The Frederick County Board of Education discussed requesting such a waiver at their meeting Wednesday.
All board members agreed that FCPS should ask for the allotted five-day waiver, but many also felt a request for additional days should be submitted.
Board member Liz Barrett said she feels that the state's notion of calling the current weeks of distance learning “instructional days” is a façade since teachers are not doing live, synchronous teaching as would normally occur inside a classroom.
“Our teachers are not providing formal instruction, they’re providing information to support distance learning,” Barrett said.
Board Vice President Jay Mason agreed.
“It’s a stressful time for many and kids aren’t getting the instruction that they deserve, that they would get in school,” Mason said.
Barrett also argued that ending school earlier would allow time for FCPS as a whole to look back at the months of distance learning and plan for the future.
“We should be looking to have teachers begin using their time to plan for how distance learning might look later this summer and into the fall,” Barrett said. “I would just rather have some time for reflection and wrap-up on best practices over the last couple months.”
Board President Brad Young asked school Superintendent Terry Alban during the meeting if she had heard of any other school districts requesting a waiver of more than five days.
Alban said she knew of one district that had requested seven days and was only given five.
However, she added that this district could have requested the waiver before the state determined that schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year, resulting in the denial. Now the situation may be different, Alban said.
If all 12 days are waived by the state, school for FCPS students would end on June 5. If FCPS only receives five waived days, school would end on June 17.
The 2019-2020 school year was originally supposed to end on June 10, barring any snow days.
The school board voted unanimously to submit two letters to MSDE. The first will request a five-day waiver and the ability to make up a snow day from December by providing instruction on primary election day in June.
The second will request a waiver of the additional seven days.
The Board voted unanimously along with student member support to send both letters.