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

12:29 PM EDT on September 2, 2008

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 inCalifornia and Ohio have gone further and eliminated bus service eithercompletely or for high schools, leaving thousands of students to findtheir own way to school.

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

The Caldwell Parish SchoolDistrict, in northern Louisiana, took a more sweeping approach tosaving fuel by eliminating Monday classes. The district joined about100 systems nationwide, most of them rural, that in recent years haveadopted 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

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