Are our school districts really that different?

Published 10:51 am Friday, September 1, 2017

By TJ Ray

Notice by both local school districts of their intention to build a new elementary school jarred some memories for me. Although one of my character flaws is flogging dead horses, allow me to talk about schools.

We could make this a geography lesson. Take the school bus routes of our two local districts and overlay them on a map of Lafayette County. Count the times that the routes cross. Assume for the sake of discussion that somehow the overlay could be erased. [Pause to give that some thought.] Note that many of those Oxford School District bus lines run well beyond the city limits of Oxford. Some clever gerrymandering was done to allow county boys and girls to attend the city school. Amazing!

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Notice that those big yellow boxes all require shops for maintenance and the operators of the two systems (OSD and LCSD) must separately buy gasoline to run them.

When the buses get to their primary destinations, the kids debark to go into buildings where the activity is pretty similar regardless of the district because the State prescribes the syllabi. Most of the kids eat in cafeterias catering very similar goods.

Sort of hidden in all this duplication are two activities that bring the schools together.

One may be enjoyed many Friday nights in the Fall and other days in the Spring. And there is a grand competition to cheer to the local champ. The other regular contact between the districts occurs through the school year. On specified days, some students board their yellow boxes and drive down to the B & I Complex. [Yes, I know it has another name now, but I like the old one.] There an effort is made to encourage them in learning crafts. In a world begging for plumbers and mechanics and electricians and horticulturists, one can only wonder why the numbers aren’t much higher in B & I enrollment—instead of bombarding students and parents with the one-track program of being college bound.

My time on the Oxford School Board that most satisfied me was also serving in the B & I board. Going through that building and into its shops during a school day was a very satisfying experience. When all is said and done, the skills imparted to those kids are probably far more valuable than narrowing their focus to see only the digital world.

Well, I kicked the dead horse again. Do I believe the two districts will merge, despite all the obvious financial and educational benefits that would accrue from such a merge?

Not for a minute.

TJ RAY is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.