Policy/Program Memorandum 124
Date of Issue: July 28, 2023
Effective: Until revoked or modified
Subject: Ontario Secondary School Diploma requirement: community involvement activities
Application: Directors of Education
Secretary of School Authorities
Principals of Secondary Schools
Principals of Provincial Schools
Effective September 1, 2023, this memorandum replaces Policy/Program Memorandum No. 124A, “Ontario Secondary School Diploma Requirement: Community Involvement Activities in English-Language Schools” and Policy/Program Memorandum No. 124B, “Conditions d'obtention du diplôme d'études secondaires : Service communautaire dans les écoles de langue française”, April 27, 1999, and supersedes the policy set out in Ontario Schools, Kindergarten to Grade 12: Policy and Program Requirements, 2016, section 6.1.4.
Every student who begins secondary school during or after the 1999–2000 school year must complete a minimum of 40 hours of community involvement activities as part of the requirements for an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).
The purpose of the community involvement requirement is to encourage students to develop awareness and understanding of civic responsibility and of the role they can play and the contributions they can make in supporting and strengthening their communities. By being involved in their communities and serving others, students can develop transferable skills and explore different sectors and potential career opportunities as well as deepening their understanding of their role in society.
Community involvement activities help to prepare students for work and civic life in a globalized, digital age. Community involvement is an important educational opportunity that allows students to develop skills and experiences gained to become successful and contributing members of society now and in the future.
Community involvement activities are part of the school's program and may take place in a variety of settings, including businesses, healthcare institutions including hospitals and long-term care facilities, not-for-profit organizations, public sector institutions including the offices of local, provincial or federal representatives, First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities or organizations, and informal settings, such as religious, cultural events and community activities.
Responsibilities of school boards
Determine eligible activities:
While students are strongly encouraged to find their own type of community involvement which corresponds to their interests and talents, each school board is responsible for developing a list of community involvement activities in order to facilitate and support student involvement. Each school board is encouraged to review and update its list of eligible activities on an annual basis and to post any updated information on its website. The school board’s list of eligible activities should encourage and support a wide spectrum of student interests, talents, and lived experiences, as well as being accessible for students with disabilities and/or special education needs.
The school board's list must not include activities that are designated as ineligible. The school board must develop its list of activities in consultation with the school councils in its jurisdiction, the Special Education Advisory Committee and the Indigenous Education Lead in partnership with the school board’s Indigenous Education Council and the board's insurer.
Any training, equipment, or special preparation that is required for an activity must be provided by the individual or organization supervising a student’s community involvement activities. Each school board must ensure that all participants, including students and the individual or organization supervising a student’s community involvement activities, are adequately covered by the school board's insurance.
Develop a process for supporting students, collecting and recording hours:
School boards will develop a process and mechanism(s) for collecting, recording and validating each student’s accumulation of community involvement hours, and recording accumulated hours in students’ final secondary report cards annually. The school board’s process must also describe how schools should transfer information about completed hours in cases where students move to a different school board before the final secondary report card is issued. School boards must also have a process for ensuring that Grade 8 students have the information necessary should they wish to complete community involvement hours in the summer before entering Grade 9.
School boards must ensure that they collect and store personal information in accordance with the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and online/digital processes must meet standards for cybersecurity and privacy of student information.
A school board’s process will include that students provide their planned activities and their completed activities to the principal.
School boards must provide information to students and parents/guardians, including Grade 8 students as part of their transition to secondary school, regarding the community involvement graduation requirement. This must include information regarding: the school board’s established processes for supporting students, collecting, recording, and validating community involvement hours; eligible and ineligible activities; and the roles and responsibilities of the various participants, including students, parents/guardians, principals, schools, school boards, community organizations, and individuals or organizations who will be supervising student activities. This information must be posted on the school board’s website and communicated to students and parents/guardians annually.
Responsibilities of principals
Principals will ensure that a description of the community involvement graduation requirement and an outline of the policies on, and procedures for, completing the requirement are included in the school course calendar. Principals will also ensure that students are supported in obtaining their community involvement hours, including providing information needed to complete the community involvement graduation requirement, information about the activities that can be facilitated by the school board and the activities that are ineligible, as well as copies of, or links to, the school board's information document that are to be given to the parents/guardians and to the supervising individual or organization. Consideration should be given to ensure that there are accessible activities for students with disabilities and/or special education needs.
Review students’ proposed activities:
Principals are required to review and approve students’ planned community involvement activities, using their school board’s established processes.
If a student proposes to undertake an activity that is not on the school board's list of eligible activities, the principal will determine whether the student's proposed activity is acceptable, in consultation with the appropriate supervisory officer. The activity may not be on the ministry’s or school board’s list of ineligible activities. The principal must keep a record of the approval or denial.
In deciding whether to approve community involvement activities, principals should consider the student’s circumstances, including whether that student has an extenuating circumstance, or a disability and/or special education need.
Record completed hours and confirm when a student has met the graduation requirement:
The principal will determine whether the student has met the community involvement graduation requirement, and, if so, will indicate on the Ontario Student Transcript that the student has completed the requirement. This information is also recorded on the final secondary report card.
For secondary students who are transferring from home schooling, a non-inspected private school or a school outside of Ontario, the principal of the receiving school will determine the number of community involvement hours required for students who have successfully completed two or more years in a secondary school program.
Responsibilities of parents/guardians
Parents/guardians should provide assistance to their child in the selection of their community involvement activities. Parents/guardians are also encouraged to communicate with the individual or organization supervising a student’s community involvement activities and the school principal if they have any questions or concerns.
Parents/guardians of students who are under the age of eighteen years must verify their students’ community involvement hours using the school board’s approval and verification processes.
Responsibilities of the supervising individual or organization
The individual or organization supervising a student’s community involvement activities must provide any training, equipment, or special preparation that is required for the activity. It is crucial that students are able to fulfil their community involvement requirement in a safe environment. The supervising individual or organization must verify the date(s) and the number of hours completed by the student.
When supervising a student with disabilities and/or special education needs, the individual or organization must ensure that a student receives any necessary accommodations and support to participate in the activities fully. Consultation with the student, their parents/guardians, and any relevant professionals may be required to determine the best approach to supporting their community involvement activities.
Procedures for students
Complete activities to fulfill the graduation requirement:
Students may complete the 40 hours of community involvement activities at any time during their secondary school program. Students in Grade 8 may start accumulating community involvement hours in the summer before they enter Grade 9.
Students may complete any number of eligible activities, as long as those activities result in the completion of 40 hours of community involvement. Students under the age of eighteen years will plan and select their community involvement activities in consultation with their parents/guardians.
Students must obtain approval from their principal, using their school boards established processes, before participating in community involvement activities. Students may not select an activity that is on the ministry’s or board’s list of ineligible activities. If the activity is not on the school board's list of approved activities, the student will be required to obtain approval from the principal. The student will submit the request in the manner that has been established by the school board.
A student under the age of eighteen must consult with their parents/guardians, and must also have one parent approve their activities and submit it to the principal or to another school contact designated by the principal (for example, the student's teacher-adviser).
Share information on the community involvement graduation requirement:
Principals will ensure that students receive the school board's information. Students will share this information with their parents/guardians and individuals or organizations who will be supervising their community involvement activities.
When the activity is completed, the student, parents/guardians (for students under 18) and the individual or organization who supervised the community involvement activities must submit to the principal the required information using school board processes to verify that the activity has been completed. The student must submit to the principal or other school contact upon completion of the 40 hours, or at appropriate intervals determined by the principal.
The ministry has developed a list of activities that may not be chosen as community involvement activities. These are referred to as ineligible activities.
An ineligible activity is an activity that:
- is a requirement of a class, course, or program in which the student is enrolled (e.g., cooperative education course, experiential learning activities)
- takes place during the time allotted for the instructional program on a school day. However, an activity that takes place during the student's lunch breaks or “spare” periods is permissible
- contravenes the minimum age requirements to work in or visit a workplace stated in regulations made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act
- contravenes any other applicable legislation, regulation or policy
- contravenes the policies and procedures of the organization that is supervising the student’s community involvement activities
- would normally be performed for wages by a person in the workplace
- involves the operation of a vehicle, power tools, or scaffolding
- involves the administration of any type or form of medication or medical procedure to other persons
- involves handling of substances classed as “designated substances” under the Occupational Health and Safety Act
- requires the knowledge of a tradesperson whose trade is regulated by the provincial government
- involves banking, the handling of securities, or the handling of valuable items such as jewellery, works of art, or antiques
- consists of duties normally performed in the home (i.e., daily chores) or personal recreational activities
- involves activities for a court-ordered program (e.g., community-service program for young offenders, probationary program)
- involves activities that promote discrimination, harassment, or puts the safety of the student or others at risk.