School Board Opposes Community Service Requirement

October 13, 1991|By Keith Paul | Keith Paul,Staff writer

While Howard County Board of Education members say they don't opposethe concept of a student service graduation requirement, the legal and logistical problems that have surfaced since the idea was proposedled board members to oppose it at Thursday's meeting.

The board talked of the problems of tracking the county's 8,500 high school students and possible legal liability for students who participate in public service projects outside of school.

"If we can't do it right, don't do it," board member Dana F. Hanna said.

Other board members questioned whether the students would learn about public service simply by performing 75 hours of work.

"Students learn about public service from role models. We're not teaching them what public service is all about (by mandating they perform75 hours)," said Karen B. Campbell, board vice chairwoman.

The students would learn more about public service by getting involved on their own with aid from the schools, she said. The schools already have programs that allow students to participate in service projects.

"We hear that our students do participate at the high school level,"Campbell said.

The board talked of adding the service requirementto the certificate of merit diploma but decided against that becauseit would falsely label students, board members said.

"The way it reads is, there are two classes of students. Only our exceptional students would do the community service," Campbell said. That would indicate that other students would not perform some type of community service, which is not true, she said.

School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said that if the state does want to put some type of public service graduation requirement, the 75-hour stipulation should be dropped.

"There is nothing magical about 75 hours," he said.

In other action, the board approved:

* Raising the high school graduation credit requirement from 20 to 21.

* Raising the math requirement from three to four credits.

* Raising the science requirement from two to three credits.

* Raising the grade-point average for a certificate of merit from 2.6 to 3.0.

The board did not approve theproposal for giving physical education credit for participation in interscholastic sports.

"How do you grade? How do we figure this into schedules? There's a whole host of things," said board chairwoman Deborah D. Kendig.

Campbell said she thought participation in interscholastic sports was not physical education.

The board opposed the proposal that students pick either an academic or technology trackand fulfill requirements in that track.

Board members claimed this would lead to labeling students and that technology requirements have not been defined.

In other matters, the board approved the sites for Western High and Northeastern Elementary. The high school will be in a 69-acre lot near Route 108 and Trotter Road, and the elementary school will be on an 8-acre lot at Montgomery Road and the Rockburn Branch Park entrance.

Concerns were raised about the proximity of Western High to the cemetery, questioning how school events and ceremonies could be scheduled on the same day.

Board member Sydney L.Cousin said the architects have provided for a landscaping buffer zone.

The site for Western Middle School, on a 40-acre lot bound by Folly Quarter Road and Route 144, was not voted on. Feasibility studies have indicated the site would not be appropriate.

Hickey said there are several other sites under consideration, and one should be determined within the next few weeks.

In a special session before the main meeting, the board voted to approve the 1993 capital budget and 1994-1998 capital improvement program.

The 1993 budget calls for about $22.4 million in local money, about $2.2 million in transfer tax revenue and about $16 million in state money.

Hickey said the board will have time to reconsider any budget passed, because Thursday's action was taken only to meet a state-mandated timetable.

He said the board will review the budget in February and set a final budget in late May or early June of next year.

The 1994-1998 capital improvement program calls for spending $38 million in 1994, $42 million in 1995, $35 million in 1996, $9 million in 1997 and $23 million in1998. The projects are for building new schools and renovating old ones.

Campbell said she considered the budget estimates low.

"Itis barely adequate for what we know about. But an increase in growthis possible and we'll fall below," she said. "But we can always fix it next year."

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