Education: Tough decisions needed to stop money drain

Wood County Schools is facing the need to spend as much as $11 million to improve energy efficiency at aging schools that cost the school system hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. When CMTA Energy Solutions conducted a survey of the district’s schools and administrative buildings it found Fairplains Elementary School, built in 1948, uses the most energy. Worthington and Neale were big offenders as well.

Outdated systems, insulation, windows, lighting, even the use of window air conditioners to keep classrooms cool, are all draining money from Wood County Schools. Though CMTA suggests the district would recoup its investment on energy efficiency within 15 years, those years will likely see other major needs for the 27 schools that serve fewer than 12,500 students in Wood County.

Difficult decisions must be made.

Certainly improving energy efficiency is important, but resources will be stretched thinner and thinner if other — perhaps major — changes are not made.

While preparing for a county-wide facilities bond in 2016, the Wood County committee recommended numerous school closures and consolidations. The committee ultimately asked for only one school closure as part of the bond, but after the bond was approved by voters that November, board members reversed course and did not go forward with consolidation.

Administrators and board members had begun playing favorites, and emotional public outcry outweighed necessity.

Upgrading and repairing the buildings in use now will only get more expensive as the years pile up — and the number of students continues to drop.

Should the school board decide to move forward with the proposed energy plan, it will do some good, yes. Tougher decisions must be tackled if school board members are to lay a foundation for truly serving the students of Wood County at the highest level our resources will allow.