Arlington County

The following was among actions taken at a Oct. 18 meeting of the Arlington County School Board. For more information, call 358-6000.

STATE SCHOOL ISSUES -- The School Board heard an informal presentation from Chairman Conchita S. Mitchell on positions the county school system is expected to take on state school issues expected to come up in the next session of the Virginia General Assembly.

In setting levels of state funding, the county should not be penalized because of its high level of local funding, School Board members contend. State funds should be more equally distributed among all jurisdictions, Mitchell said, but "we shouldn't be penalized because we have the ability to pay."

The board also will seek additional state funding for the growing cost of the English for Speakers of Other Languages program. Without the program, many new immigrants would not be able "to get up to speed in the English language," Mitchell said.

There are currently 2,377 students enrolled in the program. ESOL employs 78 teachers, 18 teacher aides and 14 staff members, who assist in translation and registration and work with participating students and their families.

The board also wants continued state funding for programs that identify at-risk students. By identifying students who are at risk, the county hopes to reduce the student drop-out rate.

The board plans to oppose legislation that might require the county to provide bus transportation for private and parochial school students. The county estimates the requirement would cost an additional $28,000 annually per bus route. Also, the county has insufficient drivers and buses to expand current bus service, and bus schedules are already tight and would be strained, Mitchell said.

The board will propose that the new state law requiring that all students pass a literacy test by the eighth grade level be amended to permit exceptions. Mitchell said new arrivals from foreign countries may not be able to pass the test and should not be held back in middle school.

Finally, the board will oppose legislation that does not give the School Board final authority in decisions regarding employee grievances. Currently, the board can overrule recommendations by fact-finding panels that evaluate the grievances. The board has overruled six cases since 1983.

City of Falls Church

The following was among actions taken at the Oct. 16 meeting of the Falls Church School Board. For more information, call 241-7648.

STUDENT COMMUNITY SERVICE -- The School Board approved a request by the senior class at George Mason Junior/Senior High School to permit seniors to leave campus during school days to do community service.

The new "Senior Honors" community service program replaces the "open campus" policy that allowed responsible seniors to leave the school for short periods during the day to do whatever activity they chose.

The decision allows senior students to do up to 18 hours of community service each quarter, or about two hours a week, during free periods and lunch.

Under the "open campus" policy, seniors with at least a 2.0 grade average, no record of suspensions and a note from their parents could leave the school for up to two 48-minute class periods and a 25-minute lunch period a day. The school day has seven periods; seniors are required to take at least five classes. Students could determine how they wanted to spend their school time away from campus.

The "open campus" program was limited to the final quarter of senior year. Under the new community service program, students can participate each quarter so long as they fulfill the requirements in the previous quarter.

Students can propose their own community service projects, such as working as a teacher's aide, coaching youth sports or helping in a soup kitchen.

The seniors originally sought permission to do up to 25 hours of service each quarter, but the board lowered that to 18 hours a quarter.