Consolidation not only option for Lawrence schools
The Lawrence County Board of Education may have more options than consolidation to improve the quality of education in its schools.
Superintendent Dexter Rutherford wants to consolidate high schools to two locations. Board members last week simply resolved to realign grades nine through 12.
Mr. Rutherford, Chairman Bobby Diggs and Chamber of Commerce Executive Vicki Morese toured Gadsden City High School last week to see the effects of going from three schools to one.
They came away impressed and with the warning that consolidation doesn’t save money, but it does offer students an opportunity for a better education.
The Gadsden school can now offer students far more programs than each of the three offered. But there is a down side to consolidation.
Bus rides for many students are longer. Transportation costs go up, too.
Studies also show consolidation has a negative social and economic impact on the communities left without a school. Opponents of consolidation also say it contributes to higher dropout rates.
If that is true, it may be because many students lose their identity in larger schools. Fewer students participate in extra-curricular activities, thus fewer parents do, too.
Many youngsters stay in school because they can play sports and make the team. Many of the youngsters who now get the opportunity to shine in sports would be benchwarmers at a consolidated school.
The school board may be able to accomplish its goals without causing harm to some students. Why not keep all or most of the present schools open but designate one as a magnet school where students who want expanded curricula may attend?
Lawrence could also offer the distance learning classes that Gov. Bob Riley is pushing.
Schools are tremendously important to communities. Like post offices, they are part of a community’s identity.
Educating students must take priority over all of the side issues and Lawrence School Board members must decide what is best.