Editorial: Wayne Schools’ move to cut costs is understandable

May 3, 2019

With declining enrollment triggering a corresponding cut in state funding, it’s not surprising that the Wayne County Board of Education is looking for ways to save money.

One step it took recently was to evaluate its staffing levels and take action on reductions-in-force and transfers for 86 county professional and service employees.

Another step under consideration is to get rid of what many school systems might consider a luxury - giving students some leeway to attend the school of their choice and provide them the transportation to get there. Rather than continue that practice, the Wayne board is looking at a proposal that would establish strict attendance zones for each school. Currently, students living near another school’s attendance zone often can choose to attend that other school, with transportation provided.

Under the proposed plan, a specific school would be assigned to every address in the county. That would mean that all students would be required to attend the school in the zone where they live, Wayne County Schools Superintendent Todd Alexander told The Herald-Dispatch.

While students would have the opportunity to apply for transfers to schools outside of their attendance zone, the students and their families - and not the school system - would be responsible for transportation to and from that school.

Taking the approach of establishing and enforcing attendance zone boundaries will eliminate duplicate bus routes that result in avoidable operational costs, including wear and tear to vehicles, fuel costs and additional bus drivers, Alexander explained.

That all makes sense from an efficiency standpoint. While it’s admirable to try to meet the wishes of students, or their parents’, in terms of school preferences, the county school system cannot afford to continue the practice of unlimited transportation services to accommodate those wishes.

The plan understandably has been met with resistance from some students and/or parents whose school of choice would be considered off limits under the county’s proposal. For example, some students who have attended a school for multiple years would be forced to finish up at another school if the attendance zone proposal goes through.

For situations such as that, the Wayne board and administrators may want to consider a phase-in period for stricter enforcement so that students in such situations won’t have to abruptly leave the school they have attended for a few years. That no doubt would add some complications to any transition to the new system, if it is indeed passed. But it could lead to a more reasonable way to make this switch from a system that the school system allowed to develop up to this point.