December 8, 2013

School committee needs to keep focus on education

The Daily Citizen

— Bigger isn’t always better.

And Dalton Public Schools is struggling to deal with the enormous growth it has seen in student population over the past decade.

Total enrollment has grown by 35 percent to 7,700 students. Dalton Middle School’s enrollment has grown by 40 percent to 1,700. That’s leading to overcrowding and long lines at some schools. Lunch hour at the middle school, for instance, reportedly starts early in the day  and continues into the afternoon.

Officials project that growth to continue over at least the next five years.

So what are the solutions being talked about? Some are saying a new high school, some are saying a new middle school, some are saying a hybrid of the two, some are saying no new school at all.

Others worry about Dalton High’s athletic programs and sports traditions that could be harmed by creating a new high school.

Sports have their place, though no more so than other extracurricular activities. And no extracurricular activity should take precedence over academic excellence.

School leaders are creating a committee to bring recommendations on how to deal with the growth in student population to the city school board by September 2014. That committee should focus solely on how to best educate the city’s children, how to ease overcrowding and to make sure classroom instruction isn’t interfered with by a large student body.

They owe it to students to focus solely on academics and they owe it to the community. A well-educated workforce and well-educated citizens are vital to the city’s future.