Suffolk Public Schools have received approval from the Virginia Board of Education to add a community service graduation requirement.
Beginning with freshmen starting in the fall of 2013, students will be required to complete 50 hours of community service before graduation.
Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline Chavis says many students already do community work and the new requirement is designed to prepare students headed for either the work world or college after graduation.
Chavis says students can begin working on the hours the summer before their freshman year and that in-school opportunities to earn hours will be available.
School counselors will help keep track of student hours.
Reaction to the new rules was mixed in Downtown Suffolk Friday afternoon.
“I think it’s a great idea. It would help keep some of the youth off the street. It helps them give back to the community and helps them learn,” explained Elonda Goodwin.
Courtney Johnson commented, “You have to show that you have provided some kind of service, some kind of volunteer work. So I think it’s a great idea to get them off their phones and into the world!”
However, father Fred McClain thinks kids are already busy enough as it is.
“I don’t think it’s fair. I believe kids already have enough to do. Some have sports after school, some of them get jobs,” McClain explained.
Suffolk received approval after addressing some Board of Education concerns, including how students who transfer in after their freshman year would be accommodated.
Chavis says hours for those students would be reduced.
“It is not designed to keep a student from graduating from high school,” Chavis explained. “It’s to enhance their chances of being a better employee and being a better student if they are going on to college.”