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School board getting strict on service credit Students must fulfill 55 of 75 hours by 12th grade


Some of this year's high school juniors might find themselves back in 11th grade next year if they don't meet community service guidelines.

The Carroll County Board of Education approved a revised policy on how it will administer the state's service learning bylaw at its meeting yesterday.

The revisions are a list of classes that qualify students to earn 10 to 15 hours of service credit within the school day, and a new rule that if a student hasn't fulfilled 55 of the 75 hours by 12th grade, the student must remain in an 11th-grade homeroom and may not attend senior class meetings.

But the flip side is that a high school student could fulfill the required 75 hours of community service all within the school day, if he or she takes classes that have such service built into the curriculum.

"It's mainly an attention-getting device," said Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary education. "Some kids need a wake-up call."

He said the sanction is the best way of ensuring that students don't wait until the last minute of the last semester.

Many students fulfill their 75 hours before they get out of middle school, said Estelle Sanzenbacher, who coordinates the service learning program for Carroll County schools.

The first class of students affected by the state's service learning requirement are in 11th grade this year. Some of them have not completed any hours, Ms. Sanzenbacher said, though she won't have an accurate count of how many until next month.

Outside school, activities that can earn a student the required hours include scouting, volunteering with community organizations and churches and working on political campaigns.

Some classes already build service activities into their course work, Ms. Sanzenbacher said. Students in eighth-grade home economics often make bag lunches for soup kitchens, for example, and everyone who passes that class will get 15 hours credit.

Students also can get 15 hours for an approved environmental project during the week all sixth-graders spend at the Outdoor School at Hashawha Environmental Center. Sixth grade is the first year they can start earning the hours.

Students can earn 10 hours in each of 30 high school courses, including science research, 10th-grade U.S. history, forestry, child development, yearbook, newspaper, horticulture, health, drama, sign language and some English courses.

Students also earn hours for spending a period every day as an assistant in the library, a science lab or other area.

"We tried to clearly define a plan for students to follow so they can complete the hours during the school day if they want to," Ms. Sanzenbacher said.

The 11th-graders this year must complete 60 hours to graduate. They got a waiver of 15 hours because not all were able to take eighth-grade home economics. They will have to complete 40 hours by the end of this year to be able to enter 12th-grade homeroom next year.

Future classes will have to complete 75 hours total, 55 of them by the beginning of senior year.

Those who don't have 40 hours by next year won't be allowed to take advantage of senior activities, such as class meetings and assemblies.

Mr. McDowell said he hopes the students will bring up their hours in the first semester. If they still don't have enough in the second semester, they won't be able to attend the senior prom and take part in other senior activities, he said.

He said he is working with data processing staff to print a running count of service hours on a student's report card, so that the student and parent can keep track.

The board voted 4-1 to approve the new policy. Voting no was board member Gary Bauer, who often has criticized programs that he says are more social than academic.

Other board members expressed concern about the program as one more example of the state requiring local schools to do something, but not providing money for them to do it. However, they have acknowledged it's the law, or at least the bylaw, for now.

Maryland is the only state to require students to perform community service. Other states are considering such plans, and several individual school districts have the requirement. Legal challenges are expected.

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