Community service in school proposed Panel to offer plan to county board

An Anne Arundel County school committee has drafted a plan to allow middle and high school students to fulfill new, state graduation requirements for community service as part of their regular classes.

The plan, proposed by a committee of school officials, parents and community leaders, would require students to complete 70 hours of community service before graduation. But it loosely defines community service to include study, preparation and evaluation as well as actual volunteer work.


The committee is scheduled to approve the plan next week and to present it to the county school board in mid-January, said Dennis Younger, director of county schools' curriculum.

Robert Embry, president of the state Board of Education, declined to comment specifically on the Anne Arundel plan. But he said that incorporating community service into the curriculum is the preferred way of approaching the requirement.


But he added that the state board want students to do at least some volunteer work after school or on weekends.

The state board approved last summer the curriculum requiring students to do volunteer work before graduation, starting with this year's incoming ninth-graders.

But the board left it up to local school systems to devise their own plans, subject to the approval of the state superintendent. If a local system does not adopt a program, students would have to perform 75 hours of service to satisfy the state requirement.

Martha Fields, assistant deputy superintendent for the state Department of Education, said the board intended the new regulation to be flexible. In some cases, students may even be able to do chores around the school to meet the requirement, she said.

The Anne Arundel plan apparently would allow students to fulfill the requirement on school time if the teacher of a course agreed.

Mr. Younger, who said he thinks the state would accept Anne Arundel's plan, noted that incorporating community service instruction into the existing curriculum would save time, people and money.

Under the Anne Arundel plan, community service education would begin in the fourth and fifth grades with students learning in social studies courses about how volunteerism relates to citizenship.

Middle school students would receive 10 hours of community service instruction each year in English, social studies, mathematics and science courses.


In high school, community service instruction would be incorporated into 10th-grade English and science courses, as well as into a required government course entitled Law and the Individual.

Thomas Paolino, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, said the union is opposed to incorporating the community service requirement into the curriculum.

"The schools cannot afford to take this on," he said.

Although he said he has not yet seen the committee's proposal, he said adding community service instruction to the curriculum would take time away from other subjects and increase the administrative burden on teachers.

"There's only so much teachers can do," he said.

He said the union, which has opposed the requirement since its inception, will lobby the General Assembly this winter to overrule the board.


But Carolyn Roeding, president of the Anne Arundel County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations and a member of the committee that drew up the plan, called it "a great way of #F approaching [the requirement]."

She said she initially was opposed to the requirement, but has come to support the program as a way to teach community service. She said she believes many teachers already are including community service components in their courses, and that the new requirement will not divert their energies from other subjects.

Incorporating the service requirement into the curriculum will simplify the procedures and help assure that each student meets the requirement, she said.

"If they pass the course, they get the credit."