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Front Page » June 28, 2005 » Opinion » Travel issues expensive topic for schools
Published 3,759 days ago

Travel issues expensive topic for schools

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Sun Advocate community editor

As gasoline and diesel fuel continue to rise in price (while it is a little stalmated right now the future only holds higher costs) everyone that transports anything knows that at some point something will have to give.

While private enterprise can charge more for goods or passage, governmental entities have nowhere to go to get the money for transportation other than to the taxpayer. The taxpayer, however, are themselves becoming strapped for cash to pay for their own way to work.

In particular, school districts will be hard hit as the cost of fuel rises. They not only have to transport students back and forth to school (a formidible task when one considers everything that can go wrong) but they also have to take care of activity transport.

Each year the Carbon County School Board struggles with what to do about transportation for activities. Most people think of sports teams when they think of transporting students, but there are many more kinds of activities, clubs, and school programs that need transport for one event or another. How the district juggles these types of requests always comes under scrutiny and consequently criticism.

There are probably some things that could be done to consolidate and hold costs down that aren't being done now, but those actions are not under the control of the school board or even anyone in Carbon County. Consolidation of schedules in sports, holding events so that a number of school districts can team up on transportation and other schemes could probably save not only money, but possibly valuable class time as well. However scheduling of athletic events, debate meets, drama competitions, etc. are up to those who run leagues and competitions. Most of the people who do that live in areas where a bus never goes more than 15 miles one way to a league game or 30 miles to a yearly drama competition.

As one of the Carbon School District's board members put it at a meeting not long ago, "When you live in a rural area, you'd better plan on traveling if you are going to compete."

This year the school district will gain some money by not having to transport teams from East Carbon High to the hinterlands of the state. It's interesting to note that the smallest schools in the state (1A schools) have always had the farthest to travel for competition despite the fact there are more schools in that classification than any other. Three to four hour bus rides, one way for 1A teams are not uncommon; some even stretch to eight or nine hours. So it goes for the little guys on the block.

But the cost of fuel could well change the way districts have to do business. Obviously it is much less expensive to transport 70 football players on a bus than it would be to put them in cars and drive them to a game. Statistically, and realistically as well, it is also much safer.

But what about breaking the bank. What happens if diesel reaches five or six bucks a gallon? How will districts keep up? How will leagues and competitions have to change to accomodate the realities of a limited checkbook?

At that point the whole idea of inter-school competition, whether it will be with a basketball or a chess set, could change for good.

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June 28, 2005
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