ST. PARIS – Graham Local Schools has been looking at instituting a policy requiring community service hours for its students, and a parent expressed opposition at Monday’s board meeting.
The school board held a first reading for the policy Monday. Approval generally occurs after a second reading of any policy, Treasurer Judy Geers said.
Darlene Alltop, a Graham parent and board member of the St. Paris Public Library, told the school board she does not think the district should focus on requiring community service when it has other instructional priorities.
“If we received a D on our last report card, we need to be more concerned about instructional time in the classroom than on community service,” she said.
Alltop said decisions about community service should be a family decision, not a requirement of a school district, and she asked whether the board had sought public input.
The district plans to hold a United Service Day on Friday, April 21, in conjunction with the United Way, the Champaign Family YMCA and the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. Those organizations will sponsor activities for students. The district sent a letter to parents about it, which included a permission slip to be signed. Students would be transported to sites for the activities by district bus and would be accompanied by district personnel.
YMCA CEO Paul Waldsmith and new Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lydia Hess spoke in favor of the community service day.
Superintendent Kirk Koennecke said the district sought input from teachers and the community and more input will be requested until the policy’s second reading and vote.
Alltop said if the board adopts the policy, students may have a tough time fulfilling the requirement along with other activities students want to do, such as sports.
Elementary Assistant Principal Chad Lensman, who will become the new middle school principal beginning Aug. 1, said students can choose which activities they want to do as part of their community service requirement.
Lensman said community service encompasses much and that many students do community service through their churches now. He said if students only did the community service day every year, they would accomplish most of the required hours.
“That doesn’t count the activities they do in the classroom. It doesn’t count the weekly recycling at the elementary. It doesn’t count the students who recognize and help others in the buildings,” he said. “Studies show engaging students in service learning exponentially increases student participation in other school activities. Not everybody is into sports.”
Koennecke added the state is considering requiring community service hours as a requirement to graduate.
“I think the board is right to be looking at these kind of policy drafts currently to stay ahead of the curve with the state and to not tilt at windmills when politicians come up with great ideas, but to be the wind,” he said.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.