Community service waived for 2021 Ashwaubenon graduates
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – For the second year in a row, the district’s high school seniors won’t have to complete a minimum of 24 hours of community service to graduate.
The Ashwaubenon school board agreed Wednesday, Sept. 30, to waive the requirement again because of the challenge of performing community service with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing into the 2020-21 school year.
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, has been in effect for decades.
“It’s a testament to the close relationship that our school has to the community and the kind of things that we value here,” he said.
Many AHS students complete more than 100 hours of community service by the time they graduate, Ribbens said.
However, he said it became difficult for some seniors to complete their final community service hours last spring when in-person classes stopped and the district switched to virtual instruction.
“The same thing, unfortunately, is happening this fall,” Ribbens said. “Even though we’ve had students in the building, many of the community resources and community places where they could do community service aren’t accepting people, or they’ve closed down, or they’re limiting significantly. Even as we’re limiting who gets in our buildings, many of those places are limiting who can get into their buildings.”
After speaking with students and parents, Ribbens said he requested the board to grant another waiver to the Class of 2021.
He said the hours of community service this year’s seniors complete will still be included in their transcripts “because we still think that’s important, and certainly community service hours are a piece of the puzzle for college applications, scholarships, National Honor Society, things like that.”
Board President Jay Van Laanen said it’s unfortunate the pandemic is still making community service difficult, but he understands why a waiver should be granted for another group of seniors.
The board’s motion applies only to the Class of 2021 with subsequent AHS classes still required at this point to perform a minimum of 24 hours of community service before they graduate.
Board members heard an update on co-curricular activities for 2020-21 from Nick Senger, high school activities director.
Senger said the district’s goal is to have in-person learning, with which he hopes it will be possible to have co-curricular activities with winter approaching.
Since July, Senger said the district had done more than 3,750 screenings of student-athletes for COVID-19 involving activities such as speed and strength, volleyball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, dance, boys’ soccer, football, cheerleading and girls’ golf.
“There have been less than a handful of issues in our screening of our student-athletes,” he said. “Our kids are doing a great job coming (here) wearing masks. They’re doing a great job outside of the school environment of staying safe.”
As a member of the Fox River Classic Conference, Ashwaubenon suspended its fall sports until the alternate spring season.
Senger said the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association will soon issue guidelines for winter sports.
“Hopefully in the month of October, late October, (Superintendent) Kurt (Weyers) and I and the administrative team are able to come to a plan for what winter sports and co-curriculars (will) look like,” he said.
Senger said there is no “magic formula” for determining whether schools offering in-person learning and sports have more cases of COVID-19 among students than those with remote instruction or not offering sports.
“Our goal is to be at school,” he said. “Our goal is to play, and our goal is to compete in winter athletics and the alternate season for fall sports in the spring, and of course the spring sports.”
With the switch to remote learning districtwide, effective Oct. 1 until at least Oct. 16, Weyers said students who had in-person instruction when the school year began will have remote learning four days a week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday – with Wednesday having staff collaboration and small-group instruction along with independent learning.
“We’ll have small groups of students in our buildings on Wednesdays with our staff working with our students in a variety of different topics,” he said.
Weyers said students who have labs or projects unable to be done remotely would be included in the small groups Wednesdays, along with students with special needs.
He said having only a small number of students present Wednesdays would minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Third Friday count
Business Director Keith Lucius reported on the district’s attendance on the third Friday of September, which is factored into the budget for funding.
“When I compared the third Friday count to what we had used in building the budget, on resident students, we are up about 40 students over what I had projected, and the good news is we aren’t in declining enrollment, so we’ll see some increase (in funding for resident students),” he said. “But realize, (enrollment) is a three-year average, so we’ll see only a third of that increase.”
Lucius said the full-time equivalent (FTE) for summer school enrollment was down by going virtual.
“We will see about $50,000 in extra revenue limit room, based on the resident count,” he said.
Lucius said open enrollment students entering the district were about 30 students above what he projected, for about $100,000 of extra revenue, but the number of open enrollment students leaving the district is about 22 higher than he projected, with some special education students, resulting in about $200,000 more expenses for open enrollment.
“The net ending position is we’re pretty close to even to what I had budgeted on those major factors – actually down a little bit – that’s where the enrollment numbers factor in,” he said.
Lucius said the total headcount for students districtwide came to 3,255.
“It’s up a little bit, but it’s not up significantly,” he said. “We’ve been in that 3,240 to 3,250 range the last couple of years, so it’s pretty consistent. We just see a little shift from residents to open enrollment when you compare to last year.”
Jennifer Bower, secretary to the superintendent and school board, added the district’s third Friday count includes students present that day or else the school day before and the one after.
“Changing how the district is in-person and virtual has nothing to with the third Friday count,” she said. “Because whether they’re virtual or in-person, as long as they are attending one day before and one day after, a district can count them.”