Edward Little High School students Tania Bachelder, left, Erin Anderson, Emily Kramarz and Emily Barnhart clear a trail corridor in May 2017 at Mount Apatite in Auburn. EL seniors will be required to complete fewer hours of community service in 2021 and 2022 because of the pandemic. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo

Some local school districts are waiving certain graduation requirements such as community service this year because of the pandemic.

The Auburn School Committee voted unanimously last week to reduce the required number of community service hours from 24 to 16 for the Class of 2021 and to 20 for the Class of 2022.

Community service was entirely waived for the Class of 2020.

Committee member Brian Belknap asked why it wasn’t being waived this year “now that the pandemic is worse.”

Edward Little High School Principal Scott Annear told the committee that 80% of students had already completed 12 hours of service, accrued in their freshman and sophomore years.

“We tried to hit a balance to maintain community service hours,” Annear said. “It’s such an uplifting thing.”

He said students have fewer opportunities because of the pandemic and parents are less willing to let their children out into the community.

Because of that, the school is more open about what kinds of service count, he said. Tutoring, babysitting siblings or shoveling a neighbor’s driveway can go toward the 16 hours.

Though some credits were waived for the Class of 2020, seniors this year must earn the standard number, Annear said.

Kelli Deveaux, a spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Education, said Friday that the state’s minimum requirements remain the same and that she was not aware of any district asking for a waiver of those core standards.

“All (districts) have the authority, through local policy, to add requirements to these minimums and many do,” Deveaux said.

Districts also have the authority to remove added requirements without a waiver from the state, she said.

The Regional School Unit 56 board of directors recently adjusted standards for Dirigo High School seniors at risk of failing to graduate. The district comprises the towns of Dixfield, Carthage, Canton and Peru in Oxford County.

Pam Doyen, superintendent of the district and principal of the high school, said at a recent board meeting that 18 of the 57 seniors are at risk of not graduating.

Dirigo’s graduation requirements are “significantly more” than the state’s minimum, Doyen said. For example, the state requires 2 credits in math and 2 in science/technology. Dirigo requires 3.5 credits in each.

Doyen said some students have been struggling to keep up with classes since schools were closed statewide in mid-March of 2020.

The credit adjustment will affect only students who need it, she said.

“Any student who could feasibly complete the requirements would be held to that standard,” she said.

Also in Oxford County, School Administrative District 17 directors have completely waived the community service requirement for seniors at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris.

And in RSU 16, required participation in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities — sports and clubs — has been waived for this year and next, Poland Regional High School Principal Cari Medd said Friday.

The decision will be revisited in the future, she said.

The district includes Poland, Minot and Mechanic Falls.

Medd said the high school also has eliminated its community service requirement for graduation.

Lewiston Assistant Superintendent Karen Paquette said no decision had been made about whether any standards would be waived or lowered for Lewiston High School students.

“We are considering all of our options at this point,” Paquette said. She did not respond to a request for details.

Lewiston Public Schools Superintendent Jake Langlais said at a recent School Committee meeting that 1,000 of the district’s 5,200 students have been considered truant this year.

He presented a list of 20 steps the district is taking to reduce truancy and improve engagement in studies. Those include communicating with students and parents by email, phone and through Zoom, Facebook and the district’s website in seven languages. Interpreters also are available.

The Spruce Mountain School District, which includes Jay, Livermore Falls and Livermore, is not considering any change in graduation requirements “at this time,” Superintendent Scott Albert said.

“A number of students” are struggling with grades and completing credits, but high school Principal TJ Plourde “is looking at other ways to help with that,” Albert said.

Plourde did not respond Friday afternoon to a request for information.

Sun Media Group staff writer Marianne Hutchinson contributed to this report.

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