Too fuel for school: Gas prices causing changes in school districts around the country

Will the great recession of 2008, result in school children spending less hours in school? Due to record fuel prices and the mortgage crisis, school districts have less funds to meet budgets.

As a result, some are fewer daily bus routes, the loss of field trips, and shorter school weeks. school days. The result has put the brakes on some school bus companies, and caused students to start walking.

Long a reality of the learning experience, exploration outside of the classroom has been common practice at most schools for years. Feeding the imagination and a world beyond neighborhoods, visits to other cities and national capitals have been increasingly a part of the learning experience. Less so now. In a survey by the American Association of School Administrators, 44% of school systems are cutting back on student field trips to help minimize the impact of rising fuel and 32% were considering cutting field trips for the upcoming school year.

Alternatives:You can have guest speakers-from local businesses and foundations-that might be of interest to children in the classroom, says Barbara Kapinus, a Senior Policy Analyst at the National Education Association. "It's imperative that [teachers] work with school administrators to bring the kids those real world applications into the classroom," says Rob Weil, the Deputy Director of Educational Issues at the American Federation of Teachers. You can bring similar experiences to the classroom through field trips within the classroom, says Weil. (That might mean printing out copies of art work and pasting them on the walls for students to view and discuss.) And, in some cases, virtual tours might be a good option.

In Ohio schools have eliminated passengers by more than 10% by only providing transportation for kindergartners through eighth grade students who live more than a mile away. With gas prices rising more than 44% in some areas, many schools are doing the minimum when it comes to busing. Maryland, Virginia and California districts are determining ways to minimize costs through increased walking. One benefit? Walking might also create a healthier child -- leaving students less time to sit back and play Guitar Hero on the way to the classroom.

Alternatives: "People in neighborhoods have to start watching for the kids," says Kapinus. "Parents could get together and actively put together a group that really takes responsibility for safety" on a walking route, says Weil.

You won't find yourself in the classroom with your child on Friday, instead, there might be an extended weekend. For some schools, a shorter school week has become a bandage to stop bleeding funds for gas. The AASM found 3% of schools are shrinking to a smaller school week, and 15% were considering the action as a possible measure to help deal with budgets. Jumping on board thus far, a district in Minnesota has stopped five day schools. Meanwhile districts in Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, and Texas, among others, are considering making the switch to four day school weeks.

Alternatives: During these times, it may be possible to get a reasonably priced computer for almost every kid and still come out ahead in terms of saving gasoline and energy costs, says Kapinus. And, the use of computers could be an extension of the classroom. "If kids have computers to take home, they can have online assignments to do," says Kapinus. If you continue to keep instructional time in their schedule, despite the shortened week, then schools can also improve on their 21st century skills, says Kapinus. A a shorter week, may mean an extended day in the classroom, which some experts say is far from ideal.

Finally, get involved in your student's classroom. You will help facilitate the learning process...and it will cost you nothing but time.
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