To the surprise of some educators, representatives from the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils support much of the state's plan to make 75 hours of community service a graduation requirement.
Fifty students, representing all county middle, junior and senior high schools, voiced their views yesterday on changes proposed by the state Board of Education.
"It gives students a chance to get experience in the field that they may want to work in," said Jennifer Dixon, a senior at South River Senior. "I think some students will fight it, but I think once theybegin it, they will see the exceptional opportunities they will be accepting."
The 17-year-old has gained one credit for community service, performing volunteer work for the Pleasant Living Convalescent Center in Edgewater and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She also organizes other students at the school for community service.
CRASC's position is directly opposed by the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County. TAAAC President Thomas Paolino has said his group rejects "enforced volunteerism."
In addition to the community servicerequirement, the state proposals call for increasing graduation requirements from 20 to 21 credits, 19 of which would be mandated by the state, leaving little time for electives.
All students would be required to take algebra and geometry, and all four history courses would be set by the state. The state is hoping to prepare students either for college or for approved job skills.
Many students, however, disapprove of requirements that would virtually eliminate home economics and fine arts. They complain that the rigid schedule will mean limited time to explore their own interests.
CRASC members favor merging geography into U.S. history and world history, thus freeing another elective credit. They also support the idea of a seven-period day, which would allow more flexibility in scheduling.
CRASC executive staff members plan to present their group's views and make recommendations on the proposed changes during a school board meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. tomorrow.
The board has been split on some aspects of the plan since last month, when it was formally presented with the proposal. Board members are to vote on the controversial proposal after hearing from student leaders.
CRASC leaders are planning to bring their comments to the state board during a public hearing on the proposal scheduled for Oct. 29 in Baltimore. The state board is to vote on the plan Nov. 20.
Sixteen-year-old Jennifer Collins, a Severna Park junior, represents the 200 CRASC members.
"The students areconcerned about the lack of clarification in the graduation requirements," Collins said. "There is a need for math courses to be offered in sequence. And the science credit, which requires lab time with each course, may mean that it is difficult to get lab time. We just wantthe state board to clarify exactly what they want."
School board members have made the same request concerning the logistics of finding the time and money needed to change graduation requirements. Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Cheryl Wilhoyte has recommended that the board consider a seven-period day to accommodate the new demands.
But Wilhoyte and board members want specifics on how the stateboard proposes that student community service hours be tracked. So far, South River Senior is the only county high school with an extensive community service program.
South River Principal James Hamiltonsaid his students are often called on to explain how the program hasworked at his school for the last three years. More than 250 students were involved last year.
"Now, one-quarter of the student body participates," Hamilton said. "They work with (everybody from) specialeducation students to the assistant state's attorney office and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
"We tell kids that they owe an obligation to give back to their community. That's the philosophy we give to students during orientation, even before the first day of school."
"I understand that it takes time to put together," Hamilton said. "Idefinitely understand that there is a lot of clerical time involved.It's something that has worked on a small scale in this school. Whether it is usable throughout the entire state, I don't have a good view.
"Where it has worked in this school and at others in the state,it has given tremendous benefits and dividends back to the community."