Frederick Parents Face Uphill Battle to Restore Remote Learning Program

Board of Education President Karen Yoho (left) hears from parents lined up to talk about restoring the Frederick County Public Schools Remote Virtual Program on May 29, 2024. | Photo by Heather M. Ross

The Board of Education (BOE) for Frederick County Public Schools made no motion at its meeting Wednesday to reverse its decision to cut the FCPS Remote Virtual Program.

About 50 parents with 20 children clad in yellow shirts and carrying homemade signs reading “SAVE RVP” attended the May 29 board meeting in support of restoring the program.

The board had voted to cut the virtual learning program for grades 3 to 8 two weeks prior as part of “efficiencies and eliminations” proposed to reduce a $50 million budget gap, according to May 15 meeting minutes.

That vote had been unanimous, minutes state.

Many of the parents and their children stayed until nearly 10 p.m. to speak with board members following the board’s decision not to revisit the budget cuts on May 29.

Local parents in support of restoring the program argue their children, whose unique needs are not being met in a traditional classroom setting, had been thriving in the program.

Two such parents are Laura O’ Neill and Elizabeth Perrone.

Laura O’Neill, a parent in favor of restoring the Frederick County Public Schools Remote Virtual Program at the Board of Education’s May 29 meeting. | Photo by Heather M. Ross

O’Neill’s daughter, a rising sixth grader, has language in her IEP that is specific to meeting her needs in the virtual program, and Elizabeth Perrone is the mother of two RVP students, with one child in grade 7 and another in grade 5. One of her children has a 504 plan, which also includes language and accommodations specific to the virtual setting.

According to O’Neill, some of the families who were in the program have been in contact with an attorney specializing in special education law for guidance on the issue.

Though the BOE had an extensive discussion at Wednesday’s meeting about whether any other cost-saving measures could be taken to open the door for restoring RVP, none were found.

“They knew it would not be responsible, unfortunately, to you know bring up a motion that we couldn’t pay for that would throw the entire school system for 48,000 students and 9,000 employees into disarray,” said BOE President Karen Yoho of board members when reached by Frederick’s Child on Thursday.

Board of Education members discuss local revenue received from Frederick County, which was not enough to restore the school’s Remote Virtual Program for Grades 3 to 8, according to board members. | Photo by Heather M. Ross

Before the vote on May 15, families enrolled in the program had received little notice that there was a possibility it could be eliminated from the budget, according to parents.

In response, the Frederick County Public Schools Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee (SECAC) had written a letter May 24 in favor of restoring the program. And a Change.org petition from local parent Jessica Boehman had received more than 1,000 signatures in a little over a week.

Families also contacted their legislators and representatives and wrote and sent letters about their personal experiences to the BOE asking them to reconsider and restore RVP for grades 3 to 8.

For parents like O’Neill, the fight is not over. O’Neill and other parents plan to continue fighting for the program in what they see as a fight for the wellbeing of their children, many of whom have IEPs, 504s and other needs met exclusively by RVP.

“Karen Yoho might not have heard the kids of RVP speak, but I have, and will continue to fight for our school until the budget deadline,” Perrone said in an email to Frederick’s Child Friday. “We now know that our kids’ funds are being spent in their home schools, schools they do not physically attend. Our fight to save RVP will now be focused on getting the funding to follow the student.”

According to Yoho, the coming June 12 board meeting is unlikely to include a motion to restore RVP for grades 3 to 8.

“It’s not impossible—it’s also not likely,” Yoho said Thursday. “I don’t want to give anybody false hope.”