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THURSDAY, JANUARY 4, 2007
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EDITORIAL

School mergers can be wholesome

In an editorial board meeting with The Daily concerning consolidation of schools recently, Lawrence County School Superintendent Dexter Rutherford said his system must do something to upgrade physical facilities and offer a better curriculum.

In Decatur, Assistant Superintendent Ed Nichols said last week that Decatur residents need to seriously consider consolidation of the two high schools.

And at Priceville, new Superintendent Bob Balch wants to split the high school to create a middle school for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

In each case, the suggestion becomes controversial because changes at schools are almost sacrosanct.

That doesn't mean that community leaders should back away from taking objective looks at their education systems.

In Lawrence County's case, Mr. Rutherford wants to combine the county's seven relatively small schools into two. One would be East Lawrence High School and the other would be a new facility for students in the western portion of the county. He has the support of his local Chamber of Commerce.

Lawrence County's building are aging; some are 100 years old. Some schools have small enrollment that can't support a curriculum competitive with that at larger schools. Thus, Mr. Rutherford's assessment that Lawrence County has to do something isn't a pie-in-the-sky wish.

Decatur's needs are not as critical but if people look objectively at the two high schools, they won't like what they see.

Sure, graduates have a sentimental attachment to their alma mater. Most of us do. But the buildings are not attractive and not as functional as new facilities. And they require continuous updating.

Mr. Nichols' examination of consolidation will spark a lot of debate. It should.

Lawrence County has been wrestling with the issue for some time and board members agreed recently to "pursue a school realignment plan."

Consolidation takes time, but it must start with the simple question of what is better for the students.

Decatur is at that point.

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