ROCKVILLE – Teaching and working with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) students can be stressful, declared County Councilman At-Large Gabe Albornoz on Sept. 28.
To ensure that those educators take care of their own social and emotional needs, Albornoz announced a new program, which gives all full-time MCPS employees free membership to the county’s 22 recreational centers.
The free “Total Rec” pass is open to all full-time MCPS employees, including teachers, administrators and support and building staff.
They will be able to use the pools, weight rooms and game rooms for free and are entitled to a “substantially reduced” price for all classes and programs.
The pass is available to all county residents and costs $500 a year for those 18 and older or $775 for a family.
Standing in front of the Nancy H. Dacek North Potomac Community Recreation Center in Rockville, Albornoz said, “We are keenly aware of the stress that all MCPS staff” endure.
Students often bring their emotional baggage to the classroom, “so that’s a lot to absorb” on top of teaching and other duties, he said.
Many county employees are already eligible for the free pass. By adding school district staff, all county staff – except those working for the park and planning department, now are eligible for the free “Total Rec” membership pass.
The council earmarked $117,000 to cover costs for the program, which could see up to 12,000 users, said Albornoz, who, before being elected to the county council, was the director of the county’s Department of Recreation.
Besides keeping educators’ health in mind, the county hopes this will make it easier to recruit teachers to the district staff.
Currently, more than 61% of Maryland teachers are from out of state, according to Chris Lloyd, president of the Montgomery County Education Association.
“This is another piece of that recruitment we can use,” Lloyd said.
He noted a lot of teachers have expressed interest in the program. “I know you will receive a lot of traffic, both before school and after school,” he said.
Robin Riley, director of the county’s Department of Recreation, said she was excited to welcome the educators to the county facilities at no charge.
“We value what they do,” she said.
“Health is the really most-valuable thing that anyone has ownership of,” she said.
MCPS Board of Education Vice President Patricia O’Neill said the program was a way of thanking staff, teachers and administrators for their “tireless efforts.”
“We know this work isn’t easy, and that there are times when it can be incredibly stressful,” she said.
Thanks to “Total Rec,” MCPS employees now can stay active, reduce stress and stay well, both mentally and physically, she said.
Fellow School Board Member Judith Docca, who also spoke at the press conference, noted, “Health and wellness is really important to us, and we know that anybody who is working with students needs to have the energy and the ability to do that.”