Media Archive

Consolidation is not always the answer

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 24, June 11, 2003

To the editor:

These days one hears a great deal about consolidation of governmental entities (schools, 9-1-1 communications, etc.). Consolidation is not new; it has gone on in our state for the past 100 years or more. The "one room" elemenry schools of yesteryear gave way to "village shools" when motorized transportation became available. The small 3-teacher high schools which proliferated in the early 1900s and the "School Unions" which managed them often found themselves replaced by the CSDs and the SADs as a result of the massive infusion of "baby boomers" following WWII.

In each case there were circumstances that necessitated that move, and there were technical advances which made these consolidations relatively painless. Thus consolidation has been a way of life: from rural schools to village schools to regional schools.

As in any new idea in our social fabric, the propensity seems to be to go with it sometimes beyond its ready application. The limits to consolidation are twofold: the reasonable length of a school day, and the distance for children to travel to reach a regional school. As we are now discovering, there are questions that the ready availability of school transportation cannot address. For example, how many hours per day can one reasonably expect kindergarten children to commute to their regional schools ?

And, of course, when a child is ill and needs to go home, the fewer miles the better. Consolidation has been a secure bastion in the years just passed; however, one cannot expect it to be the answer to all of our shrinking enrollment problems. Keeping our little ones close to home is not "just nice"; it makes a great deal of sense for the child and for the parents. Instead of trotting out the old and tired solutions of yesterday, why not try some creative thinking that might meet the economics of depopulation and yet recognize the emotional needs of children and their parents?

Robert W. Ronco, Sr.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.