Just some thoughts:
Now before someone takes me apart, I don’t have all the answers to that question. Possibly it was best that many small schools in various locations did close and consolidate with a larger system. But I also think sometimes folks fail to realize the cost, and I am not referring to the financial cost. I am talking about the kind of cost that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.
I graduated in 1960 from a very small high school in southwestern Indiana. How small? Well my graduating class had twenty-seven, and that was the biggest class of the upper four grades. The following year it closed and consolidated with a larger school just a few miles away. A few years later consolidation again took place and where there once were fifteen or so high schools in that county, now there were only two. Small schools gave youth the opportunity to participate in many activities such as school plays, clubs, cheerleading, bands, and various athletic teams where the odds and the opportunities in a larger system would not. A case is often made for consolidation saying educational opportunities will be better for the students. I don’t strongly argue against that, but I do note that of the twenty-seven in our graduating class, I believe ten or eleven went on to gain college degrees.
In Carlton Stowers book Where Dreams Die Hard he talks of this. Stowers spent a year in a small town of less than three hundred in the hill country of Texas. His purpose was to chronicle the school’s six man football team and its effects upon the community. It was not just football, but also the other opportunities that a small community and a small school were able to offer that larger communities could not.
Today when I go back home to Indiana, I often drive through some of these small towns that no longer have schools in their community. I could name them; they are the kind of names that make you smile or could be a good Jay Leno reference. Names like the Farmersburg Plowboys, Prairie Creeks Gophers, Graysville Greyhounds, Fontana Beantowners, Otter Creek Otters, Blackhawk Chieftians, Fairbanks Trojans, or the Riley Cossacks. You heard enough? As you drive through these towns you will see buildings boarded up or sitting in disrepair, the heart of these communities is gone.
When a school is taken from a community many of the people will eventually leave also. Towns are shut down, the streets have died and many businesses are lost for some who once lived in that community. As I said, I do not have the answer and would not say this should not have happened, but I am of the opinion that:
March 20, 2011