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