School board to scrutinize student volunteerism

Posted: Monday, November 05, 2007

A student community service program in Homer is due for closer scrutiny by the school board today as it may have implications under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

A work session on the Homer High Graduation Waiver request is slated for 4 p.m. in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education chamber.

According to Assistant Schools Superintendent Glen Szymoniak, requiring high school students to complete 30 hours of community volunteer work under the class title of Government, "would be considered an additional requirement to graduate" under NCLB.

"That could have implications district-wide," he said.

An additional fear of Szymoniak is that some students might be in a socioeconomic state that prohibits them from performing after-school, volunteer community service without placing a negative economic burden on their family.

Although the program has been in place in Homer for a number of years, Szymoniak said a search has failed to uncover any formal endorsement of it by the school district.

Also on the agenda for tonight's school board meeting is a report by Szymoniak on school class size.

He said what teachers tend to be "most concerned about is how many kids are in the classroom."

His report shows the number of teachers and students in each school in the district, the pupil-teacher ratio in each school, the average pupil-teacher ratio by geographic area within the district and the number of class sections with various numbers of students per section.

"People get most concerned with sections that have 30-plus students," Szymoniak said.

"That happens particularly in (physical education), band, choir or some singletons such as calculus classes," he said.

In the case of calculus classes, he said the administrator must decide, if 31 students are enrolled, is it better to try to scheduled a class with 14 and another with 17, or have one class with 31.

Newly appointed Assistant Schools Superintendent Dave Jones will give the school board a presentation on the pros and cons of having seat belts on school buses. The topic is slated for a 5 p.m. work session.

In a memo to the board, Jones said, "... with all of the required safety features, riding the bus to school is by far the safest mode of transportation for students."

The National Transportation Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not require seat belts in school buses, his memo states.

The regular school board meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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