Plan would fulfill student service requirement in middle school

February 12, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Almost all students will fulfill the new student service graduation requirement in middle school, according to a plan the Howard County Board of Education approved yesterday.

The requirement can be completed either in a program developed by a student's school or in a community service program.

The board gave its approval although there are no details as to how students will fulfill the requirement. A curriculum advisory committee will meet to address that matter.

Board members praised the idea of giving students the chance to finish the requirement at the middle school level.

"I think it's a wonderful program, and the middle school is the best place possible," said board member Linda Johnston.

"I think this program will work extremely well," said Susan Cook, vice chairwoman of the board. "Having it in middle school is the only way to do it."

The plan also sets up a leadership course that students who transfer from other jurisdictions can enroll in at the high school level to meet the requirement. Those not electing to take the course can meet the requirement by performing 75 hours of community service. Parents and teachers will keep track of the hours.

School board Chairman Dana Hanna said one Atholton High School parent had called him before the meeting, expressing concern that her daughter had contracted tuberculosis after she had been working with a homeless shelter group.

"This parent was very concerned we are exposing our children to things we better think twice about," he said, adding that the county Health Department should look into testing homeless people for the virus.

The board also voted to lower the one-credit physical education course to a half-credit to accommodate a new half-credit health course requirement. But some board members were not comfortable casting their vote. "I don't want us to close our minds at looking at this," Ms. Cook said.

Ms. Johnston, whose motion to postpone the vote failed, asked school officials whether they could start a daily group exercise program in every school. The School Health Council had recommended schools shave off two minutes per class and five minutes per lunch to make time for students to exercise.

While some states, including California, Illinois and New Jersey, have group exercises weekly or monthly, "Howard County could become the leader in the country with this innovative idea of organized, daily group activity," Ms. Johnston said. "Some schools are using PA systems to lead group activities so they can do it schoolwide."

Also in last night's meeting, Daniel Jett, director of high schools, unveiled three alternative scheduling plans that could allow students to take more than six credits a year. Two models involved students taking four periods a day, and a third model, now implemented at Centennial High School, called for a straight seven-period day with shortened classes.

Any change in scheduling would involve an increase in class size if more teachers aren't hired, Mr. Jett said, and some schools are willing to make that sacrifice. Two high schools, Howard and Atholton, have decided to pilot four-period schedules next year.

Mr. Jett said he and his advisory committee could not recommend a model but did come to a consensus that students should be allowed to take more than six credits a year, because the state board has handed down new graduation requirements.

More research on the impact on SAT scores, retention rates, costs, class sizes and functional tests needs to be done, Mr. Jett said.

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