In March 2020, school districts were caught completely unprepared for a launch into the new frontier of virtual education. Educators in Frederick County, resilient as always, rose to the challenge to meet their students’ needs amidst continuous uncertainty.

Now, nearly 18 months into this pandemic, educators, parents, and students deserve better than the opaque approach that Frederick County Public Schools is taking as we embark on another year of uncertainty. There remains a lack of clear, transparent, and consistent communication from FCPS leadership resulting in information trickling down in a confusing, disjointed fashion regarding contact tracing, quarantining, and equitable access to education for students who are already affected by the spread of the virus in schools and communities. Where is the Plan B for the “full speed ahead” approach that FCPS is taking?

For exposed students, there is no opportunity for live instruction during quarantine. Parents, students, and educators continue to get inconsistent (and sometimes nonexistent) messages about exposures and quarantine. Our dedicated and hard-working teachers face these obstacles without a contract in place — leaving them vulnerable and without clear expectations for how FCPS plans to keep them and their families safe. The community lacks visibility into outbreaks, policies, and plans for schools in their neighborhoods — and no one centralized location exists to provide people with basic information on quarantining and contact tracing on fcps.org until after the school year already started.

Have we learned nothing from the last 18 months? First and foremost, FCPS should be focused on the health and safety of our students and our educational community at large. Pushing ahead with full in-person education with no contingency plan is foolish, dangerous, and will lead to continued inequity for our students.

How can we be certain that there will be sufficient substitute teacher coverage when educators must quarantine due to exposures? Will there be enough leave time to cover their absences? How will students access schoolwork and continue to grow and learn without any level of live instruction — especially at the elementary school level? Is there sufficient technology available for all students in the case of quarantine that can be re-distributed quickly and safely? What if students face multiple, separate quarantines due to exposures? How can we NOT expect them to fall behind? What is the level of community spread that will make a shift to some level of virtual instruction necessary? How are teachers being asked to prepare for this?

If these were not the questions being discussed and planned for during the summer months, FCPS missed a huge opportunity to take lessons learned from the pandemic to ensure that there were more answers and less questions this school year.

Rae Gallagher

New Market

Rae Gallagher is a former member of the Frederick County Board of Education.

(13) comments

neilyoungfan25

FCPS are doing the best they can. This pandemic keeps changing. Hard to keep up. The FCPS system does not need a critical letter from a former board member who lost her seat in the last election to serve on the school board to judge them. As I remember, Rae’s short term on the board was not very productive!

Plumbum

Former board member or not, the points addressed in the letter are not only valid, but also criticize in many aspects.

Now look at you embarrassing yourself.

Plumbum

Correction:

Should say “.....also critical in many ways.”

Aperiodic.Moralist1

[lol] She was no less productive as the feckless and useless Jay Mason / Karen Yahoo duo.

FcpsAdmin2

These are urgent questions -- why doesn't FCPS have any plans? Why aren't they communicating? And why aren't current Board members asking these questions and demanding answers from Alban?

phydeaux994

It’s difficult to plan ahead when you don’t know what tomorrow will bring! How do you serve a kid that’s going to be out of school for two weeks? What do you think FCPS could be planning for that they are not?

NewMarketParent

@phydeaux994

FCPS should have been getting ready to scale up virtual. The fact that they seemed to have no plan to do that is a huge hole in their planning.

I have been only watching news reports and realized that this was a cluster in the making.

chrisweatherly

@NewMarketParent- 100% correct!

The ironic part in all of this is that Dr. Alban received her Ph.D. in Measurement, Statistics and Evaluation from the University of Maryland, College Park. The Delta variant data/ stats from June and July 2021 were telling. Dr. Alban issued the mask mandate then. So why didn't Dr. Alban also open up the hybrid/ virtual option? Particularly when everyone knew the Delta variant is a.) more contagious b.) spread to younger kids.

Plumbum

Phy, as a parent here, this is really bad. They should have a virtual system happening as we speak. Other counties do. Again, other counties DO.

phydeaux994

Everyone, Teachers, parents, kid’s especially, hated virtual learning and demanded a return to school before it was feasible. Now they’re back and everyone is screaming “why did we scrap the hated virtual learning system”. Why, you ask? Because everyone hated it! Weren’t parents offered remaining in virtual learning? I realize that many of my friends here on the FNPOF have kids in the system and I will defer to their opinions on this matter but before these flare ups started I thought everyone was happy to be back to school.

Plumbum

My kids did well with virtual

Plumbum

Well said, Rae.

The Covid numbers dropped early summer, and the school board ran With it as if covid would be no longer in existence. Very foolish.

Even berkley county has online schooling

chrisweatherly

Great letter @Rae- thank you.

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