Saving money and lives

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Budget overruns, furloughs, lay-offs, the terrible strain of the past few years’ financial crisis – those of us who are not directly affected still find ourselves paying higher gas prices and trying to spend less at the supermarket. Prescription drugs are so expensive we sometimes cheat and skip a day or so, taking the ones that are not life and death.

Anyhow, I found a couple of suggestions that I’ll betcha can save some money for the Fayette County Board of Education, not to mention teaching social development and responsibility.

1) Let school children clean their own classrooms. It is done in Japan and is accepted as the norm.

Japanese children go to school half days, and parents see to it that they have a sturdy breakfast before school. (When did feeding children twice a day become the responsibility of the school system?)

School over? Not until the classrooms, halls, desks, and restrooms are sparkling clean. Healthy competition among classes keeps the process quick and children get home in time for dinner – after which it’s time for a few extra hours of homework.

Other benefits: First of all, it gives the kids a sense of ownership of their school. The kids use it all day and at the end of the day they clean it. It’s “the right thing to do,” one said.

Seriously clean. Working in teams of two, they move desks and chairs to one side of the room, scrub the already gleaming wood floors with towels, move furniture to the other side of the room and scrub again.

Cleaning is not rocket science, if I may be trite. But even the smallest students can catch on, and no one is going to complain when they know every child in the system must do the same thing.

And so, money is saved by scaling down janitorial services.

2) School buses. Those of us who brag to our children that we walked through snowdrifts six feet deep to get to school resent the fact that school buses go in and out of neighborhoods with a dozen or fewer kids aboard. Auto emissions climb and both kids and adults with health concerns are sitting there idling in line. It costs the BOE approximately the same in fuel and maintenance for a bus with three kids in it than if the bus was full.

School buses are safer for a child than when mom is at the wheel of the family car. Golf carts provide a compromise of safety and speed, not to mention the added benefit of a bargaining chip for both child and parent. A police officer or a board of high school seniors can work out the details, but the goals should be to maintain grades at a really high level and permission to use a closed-in corner of the parking lot for golf carts only.

Seniors may earn the really high prestige of driving the family car to school when a job or appointment demands it. The principal has to sign off on it and, of course, all the new state regulations for young drivers apply.

The value of keeping kids out of the drivers’ seats and off the streets goes far beyond the cost in money. It seems that more and more young people die on the way to and from school, or joyriding. There is simply no dollar amount to put on a young life, nor the pain of a bereaved parent.

3) School uniforms aren’t uniform.

Uniforms have already been ordered for some schools in Fayette County, but they seem to be used intermittently. Some kids never seem to wear them. How can you call a garment a “uniform” if it is not uniform at all?

Besides the obvious benefit, that the kids don’t have to choose which dress or shirt to wear each day, they can pass down uniforms from older to younger children. And in families that don’t have more than one child of the same gender, sometimes a cousin is the needed size, or will be in a year or so.

Just pray the school board doesn’t decide that blue is maroon this term.