FCPS Could Cut School Virtual Program to Address Budget Shortfall

Remote learning | Image by August de Richelieu via Pexels

When Frederick County Public Schools went virtual because of the pandemic, some local parents say their children flourished—but now the virtual school’s future is in jeopardy.  

The Board of Education of Frederick County has voted to cut the Remote Virtual Program (RVP) for grades 3 to 8 to reduce the school system’s budget gap of $50 million.  

Board of Education President Karen Yoho described the moment the board learned of the budget shortfall as a “gut punch” that knocked the air out of everyone in the room and stunned them into silence.  

Some parents with children in the RVP are at a loss for what to do, saying that the decision to cut RVP for grades 3 to 8 will disproportionately affect their children, who have unique educational needs that weren’t being met in a traditional classroom setting.  

For Penelope Campbell, there’s no going back after seeing her son flourish in the virtual classroom. 

“He’s just thriving in this environment,” Campbell says. “When schools did open back up (after pandemic closures), we discussed with him the possibility of going back to in-person learning—he started having nightmares.” 

Campbell is an Operating Room (OR) nurse and mother of two children who are on the autism spectrum, Connor (13) and Benjamin (8). Campbell is part of a parent-led campaign to “Save RVP.” 

Another local parent, Jessica Boehman, started a petition on Change.org in support of reversing the decision. As of Saturday, May 25, that petition had 310 signatures.

Boehman calls RVP a “lifeline” in her petition, citing the unique needs the program has met for children who are medically fragile, have disabilities or have been bullied. Like Campbell, Boehman also has two sons on the autism spectrum who have benefited from the RVP.  

The Frederick County Public Schools Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee (SECAC) wrote a letter on Friday, May 24, in support of restoring RVP. SECAC is a state mandated committee chartered to advise the FCPS Office of Special Education and the board of education on matters of special education.  

Yoho says that the school district began making plans to support students with IEPs and other unique needs the same night that the board voted to cut the program. The budget has not been finalized yet, but Yoho says that the board plans to finalize the budget as of their June 12 meeting.

Prior to the June 12 meeting, the board of education will have a public, in-person meeting on May 29, which will include budget discussions.  

This story is developing. Check back on frederickschild.com for updates.

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