Open Forum: A new year, and much ado

Posted: August 9, 2014

The start of the 2014-15 school year is upon us, and Frederick County Public Schools is prepared to welcome approximately 13,000 students back to class on Monday.

Although the work of public educators is more challenging than ever due to increased federal and state standards, a focus on standardized testing, new evaluation systems, fiscal needs, and a variety of other challenges, FCPS’ teachers, administrators, and support staff remain committed to providing a quality education to our community’s children.

Helping a child learn and become successful is the force that drives educators to put in the long hours required to meet all of the demands placed upon them. I, along with the other members of the Frederick County School Board, was very pleased to be able to recognize the outstanding work of our school staff by providing a modest salary increase this year, thanks to support from the county Board of Supervisors. Although there is more work to be done regarding salaries and other financial issues, I am confident in the ability of the School Board and Board of Supervisors to work together and focus on doing what is best for our students and community.

There are a number of new initiatives to be excited about as we enter the new school year. For the first time, kindergarten students attending Frederick County schools will attend class for a full-day instead of a half-day. Full-day kindergarten will help position our youngest students to be more successful as they proceed through elementary, middle, and high school. It has taken a long time, but the School Board is pleased that full-day kindergarten has finally become a reality for county students and their families. This is a vital initiative designed to increase student success.

Another project that will provide exciting opportunities for students is the construction of the new Frederick County Middle School. The new school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2016, and will be built on property adjacent to Gainesboro Elementary School. School staff and members of the community have been consulted throughout the design process to assure that the school will serve both students and the Gainesboro community well for many years to come. The school has been designed to meet the learning needs of our students today and in the future, and will provide county residents with an outstanding return on investment.

As we implement full-day kindergarten and build the new Frederick County Middle School, work to design a fourth high school is continuing. The new high school will be built on property adjacent to Evendale Elementary School and Admiral Richard E. Byrd Middle School. Although the fourth high school is not scheduled to open until the fall of 2018, it’s not too early to begin thinking about the opportunities the new school and its campus will offer to our community. This project, too, will engage many constituent groups with a balance between best educational practices and fiscal responsibility being sought.

Although there is a great deal of excitement regarding the implementation of these initiatives, we cannot lose sight of the most important aspect of our schools — the teachers, administrators, and support staff who work each day to prepare our students to become successful, engaged citizens. The members of the FCPS team are the ones who make a difference each day for our students and help prepare them for success in today’s global society.

As a community, we must pull together to support our students and our schools. Parents can positively impact their child’s educational experience by participating in school activities, maintaining open lines of communication with teachers and school staff, taking an interest in their child’s school work, and volunteering to help at school events. All of us can get involved at some level, whether it be serving as a reading buddy or tutor, providing a student with an internship opportunity, or just cheering for students as they participate in extracurricular activities.

All of our schools can benefit from the community’s support. To get involved, simply contact one of our school principals to learn how you can help.

Frederick County Public Schools has made and continues to make its mark locally, nationally, and internationally thanks to our successful students and exceptional staff. By coming together to support their efforts, our students, schools, and community will grow to be even stronger.

Stuart A. Wolk is chairman of the  Frederick County School Board.