Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) is a step closer to launching a new kind of high school experience called the LYNX High School at Frederick High when the new building opens in fall 2017. LYNX stands for Linking Youth to New Experiences.
The LYNX concept focuses on highly individualized plans for student success, maximum choice and flexibility in setting and meeting academic and career goals, strong business partnerships that provide real-world learning and career opportunities, and highly flexible learning schedules and environments. It is still in the early phases of development.
Legislation to be signed tomorrow in Annapolis will provide FCPS the flexibility required to launch the program. Senate Bill 1126, which passed last month, 45-1, and House Bill 1615, which also passed, 135-0, take effect July 1, 2016. The bills will make the FCPS LYNX High School exempt from some state requirements, providing the flexibility the school will need to foster individualized student plans. Although eventually other schools across the state might adopt the LYNX model, references to the LYNX High School as a pilot program were removed from the bills.
The legislation requires FCPS Superintendent Terry Alban to submit the LYNX High School plan details to the Board of Education of Frederick County by September 30, 2016. It requires the local Board to submit the plan to the State Board of Education by December 1, 2016. The legislation further requires that within 45 days of receiving the plan, the State Board must grant the LYNX High School any waivers needed as long as they are not prohibited by state legislation and don’t conflict with the county Board’s plan.
Legislation permits applications for and acceptance of donations, grants and other financial assistance. The LYNX High School has passed the first stage of the XQ Institute’s grant process to receive $10 million to create a model “Super School.” The Maryland team planning the LYNX High School is called Team Grasmick, reflecting its leadership by former Maryland Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick. Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, announced the grant competition in September 2015 to foster a competition to reimagine and redesign the American high school to better prepare students for the rigorous challenges of college, jobs and life in the twenty-first century. The Institute expects to announce five winners, each to receive $10 million grants, in August 2016.
By September 30 this year, the FCPS Superintendent must also submit the LYNX High School plan to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee and the House Committee on Ways and Means.
The plan must describe how the school will assign course credits, how students may earn credits other than through classroom academic coursework, how the curriculum will hold each student accountable for meeting Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards, the LYNX High School hours and days of operation, use of online courses and other learning opportunities as well as a proposed method of approving online courses.
The LYNX High School must meet current laws regarding personnel requirements, the mandatory number of school days and school year requirements, and assessment requirements for earning a Maryland High School Diploma. As part of the State Board’s evaluation process for the LYNX High School, the FCPS Superintendent must submit academic and career progress, the level of satisfaction of students, teachers, parents or guardians and advocates and annual fiscal reports to the State Board each year September 30.
“Family and community involvement including business partnerships are essential in developing the LYNX High School,” says Superintendent Alban. “Parents, families, businesses, and civic organizations as well as teachers, support staff and administrators—all will have vital roles to play. I’m excited to be able to share the vision for the school, although we must safeguard much of our proposal during the very competitive national grant process. I invite everyone to find out as much as we can share through our new web page and video: www.fcps.org/lynx.”
Frederick High School Principal Kathy Campagnoli and former National Teacher of the Year Michelle Shearer, who teaches at Frederick High, are major contributors to the grant application. They look forward to sharing and determining details with staff, families and future students as soon as they can do so without compromising the grant application process. Having passed the first round of the process, which narrowed the field to 350 applicants, Frederick High leaders and other FCPS staff are working hard to meet the next application phase deadline later this month.