Service requirement makes progress

Published 10:57 pm Monday, May 14, 2018

The second graduating class of Suffolk Public Schools whose members were required to complete 50 hours of community service in order to receive their diplomas is less than a month from walking across the stage.

The School Board instituted the community service requirement several years ago, and the class of 2017 was the first class to graduate under the new requirement.

Two months from graduation last year, the situation looked dire. Less than 48 percent of the students had completed the requirement. About a third of seniors hadn’t even started logging their hours.

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By the end of the year, though, the school division said all of its seniors had met the requirement, and no waivers had to be issued. However, the division had to take some extraordinary steps to help that happen. Each high school held service days on Saturdays to allow students to do things like tidying up school grounds, paint and clean locker rooms. And as a News-Herald story found last summer, many students were permitted to count work for for-profit businesses as community service, which is against the guidelines of the program and certainly goes against what many people expect from community service.

However, school administrators promised last year that they would take steps to ensure the situation did not re-occur in future years. Students can now begin accumulating hours in middle school, allowing them more time to complete the requirement. They get formal reminders during the school year, and transcripts now show how many hours they have earned. There are incentives for underclassmen who make progress toward the requirement on a time frame recommended by the school division. And schools are providing more opportunities to earn hours with in-school projects.

It appears the changes have improved student performance. About 78 percent of the senior class has met the requirement with a month to go. That’s still not ideal, as students are still scrambling at the last minute — and stressing out their parents and school officials, no doubt — but it’s a far sight better than last year.

We hope to see progress continue until it reaches 100 percent in the months before graduation. There will always be procrastinators and stragglers, but when it comes to a month before graduation, this requirement should have been long since completed.