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Neighborhood schools -- an educational resource

   Finally we have an issue that the Buffalo Board of Education and Superintendent James A. Williams seem to agree on — neighborhood schools.

   Williams wants to spend some time early next year reviewing enrollment and busing data,  with an eye toward making some changes next fall. Most of the board thinks this is a good idea.

   Neighborhood schools have a lot to recommend  — financially and in terms of community involvement.

   City schools, faced with a $60 million deficit, could stand to save some money on shuttling kids all over town on buses and Metro Rail. It cost the district $37.5 million last year.

   Parents and students, meanwhile, are likely to feel far more connections and loyalty to a familiar school that's down the street than one that's strange and remote.

   The bonus for the kids? No more long bus rides. Did you know that the average Buffalo school student spends 48 minutes a day commuting?

   So why did we abandon the neighborhood school concept in the first place?

   The foremost problem when full-scale busing began 30 years ago was segregation. Now city schools are 75 percent minority. The minority has become the majority.

   Then there is the question of educational choice. Not all schools are equal. Parents go to great lengths to enroll their youngsters in magnet schools and charter schools to provide them with instruction, discipline and special programs that their regular schools don't offer.

   There are ways to tackle these problems. The school district has come up with several, including offering neighborhood schools only for elementary pupils, dividing the city into zones and giving preference to kids who want to attend schools closest to home.

   How do you think Buffalo should deal with the neighborhood school question?

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