Q: Can a school make parent/family volunteer hours mandatory?

A: No, public charter schools in South Carolina cannot make volunteer hours mandatory. For example, no child can be expelled because their family did not complete the mandatory volunteer hours. Instead, a suggested number of volunteer hours could be included in a "volunteer contract" that the parent's sign during Fact and Fee day. Along with that form, you can have sign-up sheets for events throughout the year to help guide them in the right direction. The "contract" is not anything that could be held against the family, but it allows the school to demonstrate expectations. Volunteer hours should be fun and offer a way to engage in the culture of the school. Some examples are reading buddies, helping with school events, sitting with the class at lunch so the teachers can have a break, doing community volunteer projects, spruce up the school events, taking photos for the newsletter, writing the newsletter, and of course, board members are volunteers, so their hours count.

Remember to keep track of family volunteer hours. Have a volunteer (another opportunity for hours!) be designated to collect hours by slips of paper or email and put them on a spreadsheet by family name for each month. This tally will help in two ways: if you send out the volunteer tally sheet quarterly, it reminds families about pitching in and may help motivate them to get some numbers on the sheet, and second - it could help you obtain money through grants. To include how many volunteer hours per school year in your grant proposals shows involved and dedicated families.