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Current student activities to count in service plan


Several current activities of Carroll County middle- and high-school students will count toward the new student-service requirement, according to a proposal presented to the school board yesterday.

Board members were grudging toward the idea of a student-service requirement -- the state requires the board to have a plan but provides no money to carry it out.

The board will vote on the plan at its next meeting April 14.

The House of Delegates is considering legislation that would kill the service requirement imposed by the Maryland Board of Education.

But an attempt to kill it in the Senate -- by Sen. Charles Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick and Howard -- failed in committee, making it likely that such legislation would not succeed this session.

Many of the things students already do would qualify as service, said Estelle Sanzenbacher, Carroll County's coordinator for the program.

"It could be most kids have accumulated what they need by the time they get to high school," Ms. Sanzenbacher said.

In fact, 15 hours of the requirement will be satisfied by the eighth-grade home economics unit that focuses on citizenship and community service.

The controversial state board mandate requires about 75 hours of community service from students before they graduate.

Several parents and most local school boards have protested the measure, mostly because of the time it will require of students.

Among the current activities that will count toward the requirement under the county plan are: tutoring, peer counseling, helping clean up the Chesapeake Bay, helping at nursing homes, collecting canned food for charity, serving refreshments at parent-teacher association meetings, writing letters to legislators, working on student newspapers and yearbooks and participating in student government.

Ms. Sanzenbacher said some academic and vocational projects students do also will count. For example, home economics classes often plan, prepare and distribute lunches through soup kitchens.

Also, the students at South Carroll High School's science research class have been studying and monitoring the wetlands behind the school. The students also secured federal and state grants to build a footbridge to protect the stream from cross-country runners.

Students entering ninth grade in September will be the first who will have to fulfill the service requirement, although under the county plan they will only have to complete 60 hours because not all middle schools had the home economics program this year.

Any service that students have completed since Sept. 1 will count toward their total.

Out-of-state students who transfer to Carroll County after the beginning of their sophomore year will fulfill the requirement on a pro-rated scale.

In each building, the principal and student-service coordinator (usually a teacher who takes on that extra duty) will authorize student projects.

Students' hours would be verified by someone representing the project, such as the director of an agency or the school employee in charge of a food drive.

Some schools will keep paper records, and others will maintain a computer data base on the service.

"What a paper trail," said board member Ann M. Ballard. "And this will cost money."

Board member John D. Myers agreed, but said that he appreciated the time and work local staff had put into the Carroll County plan.

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