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School consolidation now just food for thought

August 6, 2010
Morning Journal News

Dick Wolf has often been a polarizing figure.

From his long-standing opposition to WTI to his recent attempt to keep East Elementary from being razed, Wolf has never been afraid to take a stand, to fight for what he thinks is right.

The East Liverpool school board member was back in the news last week when he proposed a radical restructuring of the county's school system.

Wolf envisions one school district with three high schools.

The idea is not a new one. The Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce has been pushing similar ideas for its area for years, and has suggested Columbiana County do the same.

We have discussed the issue a few times during meetings of the Journal editorial board. We usually agreed that there is a lot to like about the concept, especially financially.

But as Columbiana Superintendent Don Mook said, there is a big difference between a good idea and a well thought out plan.

And this would be a monumental undertaking, the first being simple bricks and mortar. If East Liverpool, Beaver, Wellsville and Southern were merged, where would you put the 2,000-plus high school students? Would you need to build a new school? We don't think any of the current ones could hold that many.

What about the elementary and middle school grades? The transportation?

And what about the public support? We don't think this is something you can cram down people's throats easily.

We doubt this idea will appeal to school administrators or teachers and other employees, let alone the general population.We feel most would hate to lose their schools.

Yet, many of the county schools are in good shape, but for how much longer, as enrollment continues to drop in all but a handful of the districts and people move from the county because of the poor economy. All of these factors have combined to create a shrinking tax base that, when compounded by rising operating costs, are forcing more and more school boards to ask their citizens to pay higher and higher property taxes to serve less and less students.

Schools face challenges just like any other business, and running a school district is a business. The only difference is their products are educated young people, not widgets.

But it would not hurt to discuss the issue. Discussion is always a good thing. It sometimes leads to good things.

But don't hold your breath waiting for this to happen. Not yet.



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