Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Thompson School Board instituted a requirement that students complete a modest number of community service hours as a condition of graduation.
The pandemic has prevented the program from taking off as the district would have liked, and a large number of students have received waivers exempting them from these requirements. But as school operations have returned to normal, the district is reviewing the program and examining how it is going.
“It really hasn’t had a lot of time to get up and running, but this year has been a great time to take a closer look at it and see where we are,” Melissa Schneider, director of studies for the Thompson School District , the school board said at its bi-weekly meeting Wednesday night.
The meeting was one of two held each year at Burgdorf High School rather than the school board chambers in the district administration building in Loveland.
According to Secondary Schools Executive Director Theo Robison, 724 students requested waivers from the program during the 2020-2021 school year, much of which was spent on remote learning due to the pandemic. Forty-four waivers were granted in the 2021-2022 school year last year.
The policy requires 20 hours of community service outside of the home and learning environment, and guidelines for what constitutes community service are standardized across all high schools in the district and shared with families and students.
“That could mean helping a nonprofit agency, volunteering for a special project at your school, or doing something positive to improve your neighborhood,” Robison said. “Community service is not something the student benefits from financially or academically, or part of a club or extracurricular activities that students already do.”
The ability to perform community service within a student’s high school was an accommodation made during the pandemic, he said, and will be revisited in the future. These included JROTC, National Honor Society, Student Council, Latino Unified in the Community and Interact Club, Robison said.
One student, Cole Hanks, a senior from Burgdorf Secondary School, shared his experience with community service, helping to rebuild the River’s Edge Nature Area, which was damaged by the 2013 flood.
“For me, it’s a way to give back and preserve this area so that many years from now people, community members can enjoy this wonderful area,” Hanks said. “If you drive along Taft and First Street, of course when it reopens you will be able to see some of the work that we have done. That is, if they ever finish this bridge project.