Going Back-to-School in the Age of the $4 Gallon

Today is the first day of class for New York City public school students, while other districts across the country have been in session for weeks. The Times reports that some are grappling with how to get kids to and from school in the 298194903_97e86c863f.jpgface of $4-per-gallon gasoline.

Schools in many states have cut bus stops to save diesel. Districts in
California and Ohio have gone further and eliminated bus service either
completely or for high schools, leaving thousands of students to find
their own way to school.

West Virginia officials issued a memorandum recently to local
districts titled “Tips to Deal With the Skyrocketing Cost of Fuel.”
Last week, David Pauley, the transportation supervisor for the Kanawha
County school system, based in Charleston, met with drivers of the
district’s 196 buses to outline those policies. Mr. Pauley told them to
stay 5 miles per hour below the limit, to check the tire pressure every
day and to avoid jackrabbit starts.

The Caldwell Parish School
District, in northern Louisiana, took a more sweeping approach to
saving fuel by eliminating Monday classes. The district joined about
100 systems nationwide, most of them rural, that in recent years have
adopted a four-day schedule.

Simple fuel-saving measures that should be commonplace notwithstanding, the severe impact of gas prices on education has some wondering if schools ought to be in the transportation business in the first place. At the same time, though, the Federal Transit Administration is moving to curtail public transportation for students.

When all is said and done, might higher gas prices finally return us to such "innovative" solutions as walking, biking and car-pooling to school? It’s happening already in some areas, with or without administrative support.

Photo: Brad Aaron

  • Omri

    A major part of the problem was the needless consolidation of school campuses to new buildings on greenfields in the middle of nowhere, something the districts have been doing for decades.

    Time for kindergartens to be based out of homes again. And 1st-3rd grades.

  • Perhaps it’s time to consider distance learning to reduce school districts’ dependence on fossil fuels. If we’re already encouraging telecommuting for adults, why not do the same for children? I’m willing to bet an investment in the technology required for distance learning could be cheaper than the cost of buses, fuel, drivers, and maintenance and storage facilities.

  • I walked to school every day from K-12. But I was lucky enough to grow up in a Jersey town that was compact and walkable. Kids in more spread-out post-WWII exurbs are going to have it rough if some event — say, a hurricane — brings on a gas/diesel shortage.

  • Walking to school would seem like the most efficient way of getting the kids to school. Unfortunately kids living in ill-planned or dangerous neighborhoods are going to have a more difficult time.

  • Jim

    Why on earth are there hyphens in “back to school” in the headline of this posting? I mean, speaking of school. Do people just use them at random now, or is there some kind of 12-sided die I can buy?

    If kids are going “back-to-school,” that’s the kind of poor English that goes straight to-my-head and makes me want to write a nastygram to-your-blog. Right after I go to-the-store.

    “Back-to-school” (with hyphens): a compound adjective. “We’re having a back-to-school sale.”

    “Back to school” (no hyphens): a prepositional phrase. Where are the kids going? They’re going back to school.

    Do you grab your keys and write a note to tell your spouse you’re going “to-the-gym”?

    If bloggers really want to wrest control of English from the old-style journalism pros, it’s time they stepped up and took an extension course or something. This is unacceptable.

  • Jim,

    “Back-to-School” is intended to be a play on the hyphenated use as you define it.

    Sorry to-upset-you so.

  • LOL @ Jim. Personally, I’m more annoyed by excessive incorrect use of apostrophe’s, but to each his own (pet peeve).

    I’m not sure I’m convinced that distance learning will work for kids. It’s effective for adults who are motivated and enrolled in such programs by choice, but with kids who are six, seven, eight years old, it seems like you’re just asking for them not to pay attention to anything that’s going on if they’re sitting in their living room with the TV or the XBox or the PS3 or whatever right there to distract them.

  • Josh: That could be true, but if it’s done in an engaging manner, then it might be effective. I wouldn’t consider using it across the board, but it could definitely help in rural areas where busing is expensive and good teachers are at a premium.

  • anonymouse

    Meanwhile, in NYC, many students either walk to school or get student metrocards, and school bus service isn’t provided at all beyond 6th grade.

  • Jim

    Well, Brad, that will teach you to…

    …commit a minor punctuation error when I’m taking post-operative painkillers.

    I guess some people react to drugs by hallucinating. Some react by hosting nationally syndicated right-wing radio talk shows. And I turn into a nightmare version of an 11th-grade English teacher.

    I am sure we’re on the same side here. Keep up your enjoyable work. Just watch what you post on Friday nights, ‘cuz that’s margarita night around our place. I might turn mean again.

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