Saving Rural Schools

Published November 1, 2003

Rural schools often are pressured to be consolidated with another school or district. What options are available to parents who want to maintain the presence of a local school in a rural community?

Susan Hollins of Grantham, New Hampshire, who recently formed an organization called the School Reform Alliance for Rural States, addressed that issue in a workshop at the July 2003 EDVentures Conference of the Education Industry Association in Boston. The main messages coming out of the workshop were:

  • Use the Internet for virtual classes.
  • Convert the school to a charter school with the help of a federal charter school startup grant.
  • Keep in mind that the closing of a local school means loss of a community center and a sense of community purpose.

One workshop participant, Alan J. Carter, Jr. from Virginia, related how the citizens of Virgilina, Virginia had been fighting for years to keep their local elementary school open as enrollments dropped to around 120. After the Halifax County School Board voted to close the school in July, four Virgilina residents, including mayor John Youngk, protested the closing and tried to block the removal of equipment from the school. All four were arrested for disorderly conduct.