Broward’s high school seniors can focus on studying rather than volunteering during their final weeks of school.
For the past two decades, the school district, in an effort to make students more well-rounded and civic-minded, has required them to complete 40 hours of community service to get a high school diploma.
But COVID-19 has limited many face-to-face opportunities for students to work in animal shelters, soup kitchens, nursing homes, hospitals and other places, so the district is waiving the requirement for the Class of 2021.
The move also comes as more students are struggling academically during the pandemic, with the number of students receiving F’s doubling from a year ago. Many students are expected to spend their last semester trying to improve their grades.
“We want to make sure we are able to relieve as much stress and concern as possible,” Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said.
The change, approved Tuesday by the School Board, doesn’t affect Bright Futures scholarships, which require even more volunteer hours. The top scholarship, which covers most tuition and fees for a Florida public college or university, requires 100 hours, while the Medallion scholarship, which pays a portion of tuition and fees, requires 75 hours.
“Students will still need to do those,” Runcie said. “Those requirements are set by the state. We don’t have control over those.’
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said she’d check to see if there were any efforts to ease those requirements, but she didn’t provide a response.
Rocco Diaz, a senior at Fort Lauderdale High and one of the student representatives on the Broward School Board, said he welcomes the change. He’s been able to meet his requirement by making phone calls for political candidates, but he said many students have struggled.
“Volunteer hours are really hard to get when you can’t meet in person,’ he said.
The Palm Beach County School District requires students to complete 20 hours of community service, and there’s been no proposal to change that, a spokeswoman said.
Miami-Dade requires students to complete a community service project prior to graduation, but doesn’t specify any number of hours.
“Our community service guidelines were updated to include a link to suggestions of how students might do community service virtually,” said Jackie Calzadilla, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade schools.
The change in Broward affects only this year’s seniors. Other students will still be expected to complete 40 hours.