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School Zoning: Cost over Convenience

Updated on January 20, 2013

A couple years ago, my hometown decided to redistrict the elementary schools, dividing them between K-2 and 3-5 instead of having them all remain K-5. I didn't agree with this, but I was told it was none of my business. Recently, I overheard parents whose business it is discussing the matter and voicing the same concerns I have. Therefore, I feel no guilt whatsoever by giving my opinion now for all to read.

The board of education decided that rezoning the schools this way saved them money (apparently by employing fewer teachers). According to a substitute I know, it did not save them all that much, at least not drastically enough to pay for, say, new books or supplies. Teachers still pay for things like notebooks out of their own pockets. Elementary schools are usually the ones collecting Box Tops for Education, so whatever happened to that? Why not stop at just the elementary schools, either? I'm sure all the other public schools could use whatever funding those things contribute. Meanwhile, the private schools get iPads for each student. Tuition probably pays for that and not the government taxes, but that still seems a bit uneven if you ask me (no one did, but I just thought I'd point that out as well).

Parents have good reasons for wanting the districts to be returned to the way they were. Some have more than one child in school and would like to keep them together as much as possible. Those who agree believe that the older students can look out for the younger students and show them the ropes, having had enough time themselves to learn them before moving on to another school. Parents who have only one child don't have this problem and may not see the point. Some may even be of the opinion that older students would only pick on the younger ones and not be of any help at all (because, as I've pointed out before, the older kids get, the more the public turns against them). Even though my brother and I are seven years apart and never went to the same school, I still had to go back for him, walk him home, and look out for him. When I was in elementary school, there was a mentor program which paired up second and fifth grade "buddies;" they can't do that anymore. Redistricting also defies common sense when it comes to bus routes. A family could live right within walking distance of one school, but now that the schools are rezoned, a bus would have to take kids far out of their way just to attend the next three grades when they previously wouldn't have had to. Those who are unsympathetic of these points would say that it probably would happen in middle and high school anyway as well as the rest of their lives and tell them to get over it. This is a cold truth, but the board of education knows best instead of the parents, apparently.

Other towns nearby are about to experiment with their own government-mandated programs. One town is about to vote on whether or not kindergarten should last as long as the rest of the grades in elementary school rather than broken up into a morning class and an afternoon class. Another is implementing longer hours and years along with other towns in other states. I thought my hometown had one of the longest school years compared to others I've heard about that seem to start later and end sooner. While I also don't know the economic impact of lengthening either of those plans, I'm not sure how competitive my town will become in order to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak. What I do know for sure is that parents' work schedules aren't all that flexible and childcare services are predicted to take a hit. Has anyone bothered to ask what the kids think? Then again, if they're willing to have Halloween moved to the weekend, they may not mind any of this at all. Students ultimately learn to live with anything because resistance is futile. As a student myself, I often compared us to guinea pigs and pack mules; I don't think I was wrong.


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