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

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

The High Cost of Unwalkable School Districts

|
About a generation ago, many American school districts started shuttering and abandoning walkable neighborhood schools and building replacements in sprawling, undeveloped locations where the land was cheap. But by opting for cheap land costs in the short term, they incurred much higher transportation costs in the long term. Now many school districts are struggling under the […]

“Safe Routes” Goes Global With the Model School Zone Project

|
This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh. To get to Seoul Gumsan Elementary School in South Korea, students have to cross a heavily trafficked road with a blind curve. Between 2009 and 2010, 89 children were injured and one killed in 86 traffic […]

4 Things Schools Can Do to Reduce the Asthma Threat From Idling Cars

|
Lately, American schools have been pretty responsive to public health and safety threats facing children. Witness the rise of peanut butter bans or the dwindling number of vending machines in schools. But schools haven’t been very successful at tackling what is arguably a much bigger threat to children’s health: air pollution caused by driving. Asthma is the most […]

Orlando Kids Take Back the Streets — By Bike

|
"They want to ride to school. So they do." That’s the message at the end of this terrific video about a student-initiated bike bus in Orlando, Florida — a city with some of the meanest streets in the nation. Shot by Robert Seidler and edited by CommuteOrlando Blog‘s Keri Caffrey, it comes to us courtesy […]

The Suburb Where Everybody Can Walk to School

|
Lakewood, Ohio, population 51,000, doesn’t have any school buses. It never has. Because of the way its schools were designed and sited, this inner-ring Cleveland suburb doesn’t need buses — every child in the district lives less than two miles from their classroom, and most are within one mile. Lakewood calls itself a “walking school […]