L ast week, the York City School District's financial recovery advisory committee made public three options it's considering in what will eventually be the transformation of the public school district.
It's held a couple of public sessions, gathering information and ideas from just about anyone who had one. And then the 20-member committee filtered through all the suggestions and whittled the list down to three.
---Convert the entire district into a system of charter schools.
---Consolidate the city school district with school districts -- West York, York Suburban and Central York -- that immediately surround the city.
---Or give the district a chance to dramatically change itself from the inside out.
Study on those three options will continue. They have not been cast in stone at this point.
And from what I understand, the committee will continue to accept and consider other ideas.
So since I'm not particularly enthusiastic about any of the three ideas listed above, I think I'll throw an idea of my own into the mix. Just for the fun of it.
As some of you might remember, for reasons I won't go into here, I was originally opposed to the concept of the York County High School.
But as time passed over the last dozen years or so, I've changed my mind. Now, I'm a big fan.
For several reasons: One, it costs less than half, maybe even a third, as much to educate a student at the York County High School as it does in any of the public high schools in York County.
That is certainly the case in the York City School District.
The cost of educating a student through graduation at the York County High School is around $5,000 a year, a darned sight less than any charter school you'll find anywhere.
In 2010, the cost of educating a student through to graduation in the York City School District was about $14,528 a year.
And in the end, graduates from both schools are required to meet Pennsylvania Department of Education standards.
Two, students attend classes at the York County High School according to their own more-flexible schedule, up to three hours a day. Again, meeting state standards.
Three, students learn at their own pace, taking responsibility for their own education. They have access to a teacher if they need one, but nearly all of their education is done by computer. Again, meeting all state education requirements.
It's a concept I've grown to appreciate, for all of the obvious reasons.
And it seems a perfect fit for the York City School District since it's in such dire straits financially. If that's the major consideration, and I guess it might be, then this could be a way to educate students for a lot less money.
Now I'm not suggesting they should close down every building in the city school district and ship all of their students to the York County High School. That wouldn't work.
But it does seem to me that the York County High School could serve as the template for a system that might work for York City.
Using just one cyber school in Pennsylvania as an example -- I won't mention the name because I'm not pushing one cyber program over another -- the curriculum is easily as broad as most public schools, there is state-of-the-art technology, there are real teachers available when needed and students would have full access to clubs, activities, field trips, projects, group socializing and a full range of academic opportunities.
The only thing missing would be school athletic programs -- no football or basketball teams, for example. But would that be the end of the world? Some folks would say yes, I'm sure. But then York High hardly has any sports teams left anyway, a handful at best.
So what happens is students are given computers and are expected to take full responsibility for their education (with the help and encouragement of their parents and teachers) from home.
The motivated students will get through on time or earlier. Those not motivated will struggle. But that doesn't seem much different from what we have now.
Here's what I know for certain: If students can meet state education standards and work toward a diploma at the York County High School, they certainly should be able to do the same thing in a cyber environment from home.
And the price is right.
There are two primary concerns being addressed by the York City financial recovery advisory committee -- financial and academic performance.
This would resolve the financial issues. And I'd like to think the academic performance would hold its own. Maybe no better than it is now, but no worse, either.
It might be worth considering.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.