Seniors closer to service requirement

Published 9:54 pm Friday, June 2, 2017

A new graduation requirement might have tripped some seniors up this year, but the school division expects that it won’t keep any seniors who otherwise would have graduated from walking across the stage.

A new requirement for 50 hours of community service was instituted several years ago, and this year’s class is the first to graduate under the new rules.

“Of those seniors who have met all other graduation requirements, we expect to be at 100 percent in the next few days,” school division spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw said in an email on May 31.

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Earlier this school year, the situation looked bleak. In November, less than a quarter of seniors had completed the requirement, and less than half had even started doing so. Students had been encouraged to split the hours among their first three years of high school so they would enter their senior year with the requirement out of the way.

But during the School Board meeting on May 11, Byrd shared updated numbers of students who had met the requirement.

About 73 percent had met it at King’s Fork, with Lakeland coming in at 83 percent and Nansemond River at 91 percent.

Byrd said one-on-one meetings would be held with students about their challenges in meeting the requirement. Parents would also be contacted, he said.

Some students had completed their hours but still needed to report them to the guidance department, Bradshaw said.

“The superintendent will consider waiving the requirement on a case-by-case basis but has not yet received any requests,” Bradshaw said.

At the May School Board meeting, Superintendent Deran Whitney said he continues to recommend the requirement stay in place. However, the division will make some changes to ensure students are completing the requirement earlier, he said.

School Board member David Mitnick said he hoped every student would meet the goal.

“I hope that we will not entertain the idea of waivers,” he said. He added that doing so would be a disservice to those students who did meet the requirement.

In an email, Bradshaw said the community service requirement “is designed to promote civic responsibility through active participation in service experiences, to enhance the students’ ability and desire to impact the community, to foster a sense of caring for others and to develop a habit of volunteer service to those in need.”

For younger students who are still working on earning their hours, the school division posts on its website a list of opportunities. Community organizations with volunteer opportunities available to high school students are encouraged to submit those opportunities, whether ongoing or related to a specific event, through the website. The URL is