By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Havre High School students who are suspended from school may soon have the option to participate in a new community service program and get credit for the missed work they make up. The program that received preliminary OK from the Havre School Board Tuesday.
"This program is kind of unique in the approach it takes to dealing with out-of-school suspension," HHS principal Jim Donovan told the school board before it unanimously approved the first reading of the program. Donovan said he and assistant principal Jerry Vandersloot tried to do research on similar programs other schools have done, but did not find any examples.
"It's new and different, that's for certain. There's probably nothing like it anywhere else," he said.
Now, HHS students who get out-of-school suspension - which is given for drug and alcohol use, fights and repeated defiance or insubordination - have to leave school for anywhere from one to 10 days. They are encouraged to do the work they miss to avoid falling behind, but they do not get credit for it.
Under the proposed program, which would be run in conjunction with the 12th District Juvenile Probation program, students would get full credit for the work they make up for each day they work four hours of community service.
Students who opt for the program would report to school each day they are suspended, and be taken to work at either the North Havre Community Services Food Bank, the Human Resources Development Council, or the North Central Senior Citizens Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Vandersloot told the board that the juvenile probation program recommended four hours of work because that is about the longest most teenagers can work productively.
The three sites already receive volunteers as part of the juvenile probation program, and students will be adequately supervised, Vandersloot said.
In order to get credit, a student's conduct must be deemed satisfactory by the supervisor at the volunteer work site. The student would be evaluated for punctuality, attitude, performance and cooperation on a time sheet that would be sent back to the high school with the student each day.
The student's family would then be responsible for transporting him or her home from the school.
"The report of conduct is what we're really concerned with," Vandersloot said. "We want that report of conduct to be either excellent or satisfactory. If it is poor on (any of the) four, we don't sign off on it."
The proposal submitted to the school board said the program is needed to prevent students from wasting time and falling behind in classes.
"Many of our students that receive (out-of-school suspension) do not spend the time productively and lose skills taught during the missed class time," the proposal said. "This in turn causes them to fall further behind in school because of the progressive nature of most classes."
Vandersloot said about 20 students were given out-of-school suspension last year in the high school, and that most students were suspended for between one and five days.
The trustees will vote on the program a second time at the Oct. 14 school board meeting, and if it passes, implementation could begin immediately.