Many charter schools rely on parent volunteers to fill gaps due to lack of funding, whether it’s filling in at the front desk or helping teachers in the classroom.
But at some charter schools, volunteering isn’t optional.
At Surry Village Charter School, families are required to spend 20 hours a year volunteering at the school. That’s according to the “parent participation” section of the school’s parent handbook.
“It could be in the classroom, or serving on a committee, and/or performing a school support job,” the handbook reads.
“We have a parent contract that includes 20 hours of volunteer service,” says Principal Matora Fiorey. “We’ve given them forms and checklists with ways they can volunteer.”
Mill Falls Charter School in Manchester has a similar requirement.
“It is expected that each family will contribute approximately 10-20 volunteer hours throughout the school year,” according to the school’s parent handbook.
The California Department of Education issued a memo earlier this year saying public schools, including charter schools, could not require parents to volunteer as a condition of enrollment after a civil rights group complained about such policies.
At Surry Village, Fiorey said parents often find creative ways to offer support to the school and fulfill their annual 20-hour quota. One parent brought a power washer to school to clean off a dirty white wall on the outside of the school, she said.
Fiorey said it’s a minimal requirement and so far, no parents have said it would be something that would keep them from enrolling their child.
“So far, I haven’t seen that. I haven’t heard anybody say they can’t do it,” she said. “The flip side is we’re also not hounding them. I’m not going to say you haven’t put in your 20 hours, you’re out.”
Parent Angy Lombara says she doesn’t have any problem with the requirement.
“Twenty hours is really not that much,” she said. “If you do a couple of activities, it’s really not that much for me.”