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Community service requirement waived for 2020 Ashwaubenon graduates

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – The Class of 2020 at Ashwaubenon High School won’t have to complete a minimum of 24 hours of community service to graduate.

The Ashwaubenon school board agreed Wednesday, May 13, to waive that requirement only for this year’s senior class.

The change was approved because of the challenge of performing community service this spring with a Safer at Home order in effect also resulting in schools being closed to in-person instruction from the middle of March through the end of June.

Ashwaubenon High School Principal Dirk Ribbens speaks Wednesday, May 13, in favor of waiving the community service requirement for seniors in the Class of 2020 because of the problem for some of them completing the minimum of 24 hours at the end of school year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ashwaubenon High School Principal Dirk Ribbens said the 24-hour community service requirement, which applies to students who attend all four years of high school in the district, is similar to other high schools.

But he said the problem with that requirement this year is many students wait until toward the end of their senior year to do community service hours.

“Let’s just assume that that’s just because by the end of their senior year is when they have mostly elective courses and maybe they have the most time on their schedule, or maybe they just put it off until the end of their senior year,” he said. “We’ll assume best intent here.”

Though likely two-thirds of this year’s senior class had 24 or more hours of community service already completed, Ribbens said “we had a significant number who had not.”

“In the interest of do no harm, we can’t expect seniors to be out doing community service right now, if they’re not supposed to be out in the community,” he said.

Because community service may be an important part of scholarship applications, etc., Ribbens said the number of hours performed will still be listed on a student’s transcript without stating 24 hours were required.

Superintendent Kurt Weyers said some high school students have performed more than 100 hours of community service.

“It was impressive to look at the top of the list, kids with 300, 400, 500 hours of community service,” Weyers said.

Virtual graduation

The COVID-19 pandemic is also resulting in Ashwaubenon’s in-person graduation ceremonies not taking place as previously scheduled.

Weyers said a virtual commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 will be held June 7, when the in-person commencement was set to take place in the high school field house.

In the event group assemblies are allowed later this summer, Weyers said an in-person graduation for the Class of 2020 is planned Aug. 16.

Grading changes

Board members also heard from Ribbens and Director of Curriculum Jill Kieslich about revisions to grading procedures the district has implemented to close out the school year while online instruction is taking place.

“We’re going to focus specifically on the essential standards,” Kieslich said. “Teachers have identified those skills that are critical for their grade level, for their content or subject, and that’s what they’re really teaching to at this point, making sure that when students move onto the next grade level or the next course, they have what they need to move forward.”

Kieslich said parents of early learning and elementary school students will receive end-of-year progress reports indicating the understanding of the essential standards covered.

For the middle school, she said grading for the third quarter will be a letter grade for all subjects with the fourth quarter being evaluated with a pass/no grade for all subjects.

Kieslich said the high school grading procedures vary slightly from the middle school with letter grades being provided in the third quarter for all subjects and four-quarter grading being different.

“In the fourth term, (high school) students have the choice with their parents if they want to go for a pass/no grade or if they want to continue on with a letter grade,” she said.

However, in the interest of holding students harmless because of things being out of their control with the switch to online instruction, Kieslich said grade-point averages (GPAs) for high school students will not be calculated for the fourth quarter.

In general, Ribbens said not providing a letter grade to high school students in the fourth quarter shouldn’t affect them after graduation, because many colleges and other institutions are aware of that happening throughout the country.

“What we’re doing is pretty standard with high schools all over the country,” he said. “So we’ve gotten a lot of very definitive statements from the entire UW System, almost every private college in Wisconsin, all the way up to Harvard University, (saying) they will not penalize students for no GPA this quarter.”

Ribbens said students receiving “no grade” will not receive credit for that class, but that wouldn’t negatively affect their GPA.

He said students receiving a “no grade” in a class that is part of a sequence of classes they must take would then have to do something remedial, such as summer school or retake a semester, to move to the next class.

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