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Setting Priorities At Local Schools

Administrators in Ohio County Schools have been quick to tout the progress on a $2 million taxpayer investment for a turf-covered, multi-use sports field being built next to Wheeling Park High School. Those same administrators, though, seem to be resistant to efforts to spend just about that same amount to do something that truly would help most children in the district: institute a later school start time.

Ohio County Board of Education member Molly Aderholt is again pushing the district to address start times, particularly at Wheeling Park High School. There, many students are boarding a bus or driving to school before 7 a.m. to start the school day at 7:20 a.m. She wants that start time to move to 8:30 a.m.

Studies from the US Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others, indicate students benefit academically from a later start time.

Last week, Ohio County Schools Operations Administrator David Crumm informed board members that it would require 25 new buses, new drivers and mechanics for the start time change to work. Currently, the same bus that picks up for the high school may do a later morning run for an elementary school, and with the start time change that likely couldn’t happen.

Crumm cited data from a bus route logistics study conducted last fall. He is asking to spend $120,000 for a deeper look into how the routes could work.

We understand the logistical challenges and the additional costs involved. But when did it become acceptable for a school district to not blink an eye over spending $2 million for a sports field that will serve some students, and yet balk over spending a similar amount for something that benefits all students?

It’s not as if the district’s finances are under a crunch. Like other governmental bodies, Ohio County Schools has received substantial relief over the past year from the federal government’s COVID packages; also, for much of the past year, school buildings have been closed, which has led to savings in transportation and other areas.

Surely in Ohio County Schools’ $67 million budget, 3% can be found to directly address student well-being. To do any less would be unacceptable.

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