The Charles County Commissioners on Tuesday reduced the Board of Education’s fiscal year 2020 budget by $452,200, the amount identified to fund the Fresh Start Academy. The Commissioners, by a 3-2 vote, reduced the instruction, fixed charges and administration categories by the exact amount in each category designated to support the Academy and placed those amounts in a contingency fund.
“Fresh Start Academy is designed to help children who are having difficulty adjusting to the classroom structure. We are disappointed in the Commissioners’ decision; however, we plan to continue to do everything we can to support our students and teachers,” said Superintendent Kimberly Hill.
Fresh Start Academy is a proposed Charles County Public Schools program for children in kindergarten to second grade who are unable to access the curriculum due to unsafe behavior. In some extreme cases, their actions may pose possible danger to themselves, other children and staff. “Simply put, the first thing our children need to learn is how to be students in a school, and often they learn this at different rates. Fresh Start is a therapeutic program for those children who are still discovering how to adjust; it was never intended to be disciplinary in nature,” Hill said.
Reuben Collins, president of the Commissioners, said the reduced dollars would remain in the contingency fund until legal questions were resolved. Collins was referring to a letter from the Attorney General’s Office stating concerns about whether the program would violate a law that limits suspensions for early childhood students.
Commissioner Amanda Stewart asked if the Attorney General’s Office requested input from the school system about the program. Amy Hollstein, deputy superintendent, said the Maryland Attorney General’s office issued the letter without contacting the school system or asking for information about the program. Hollstein said she is confident that the changes made to the Fresh Start Program — including parent opt-in and the elimination of a 45-day student placement — address the concerns raised in the letter. “We believe this program will help children,” Hollstein said.
Commissioners Gilbert Bowling and Amanda Stewart voted against reducing the budget.
Charles County Public Schools provides 27,108 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.