Story by Raluca Tudusciuc
Photo by Oscar Walsh
The School Board unanimously approved a motion to waive the community service graduation requirement for the class of 2022 at their meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14. Decisions to set aside these requirements were previously made for the classes of 2020 and 2021 as well.
Despite their eagerness for students to be involved in their communities, the Board expressed understanding that volunteering opportunities diminished in light of the pandemic.
“Please know that this is not indicative of the fact that we don’t want our students to be participating in community service, because we really do, we just recognize the pandemic has made it more challenging for them to meet the minimum number of hours needed for graduation,” Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Christiane Gervais said.
The motion, set forth by Dr. Patricia Martinez-Miller and seconded by Dr. Michele Kipke and Dr. Ruby Kalra, will remove the set number of volunteer hours required for graduation this year.
Seniors are encouraged to volunteer regardless of the waived requirement; however, community service will not be required for any member of this year’s graduating class. Through this motion, the board demonstrates an understanding towards students and the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition, the Board passed a motion that mandates vaccination against the coronavirus for all SPUSD employees by November 12. Requests for accommodation will be evaluated and further information will be provided on possible exceptions by Superintendent Geoff Yantz. These requests will be analyzed on a case by case basis.
Although some staff members voiced personal concerns, the well-being and safety of SPUSD students remained at the forefront of the conversation. The requirement of vaccination is meant to ensure and further protect district employees and its students.
“As I think about the employees that we are responsible to, and the students to whom we are also responsible, not having people employed by us vaccinated to keep them safe, would, I believe, really violate our purpose,” Dr. Martinez-Miller said.
This motion was passed in an effort by the Board to balance both the concerns of the district’s employees and the safety of its students. Requests filed by employees are not guaranteed to come into effect.
“The empathy and understanding for those employees, and definitely having those considerations, but at the same time I think this is a concern of public well-being, and the individual choice can only go so far when it comes to something like this,” board member Zahir Robb said.
More details on the mandate are set to be announced soon and the next School Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 12.