When a Community Loses Its Schools

By Denisa R. Superville for Edweek.org

Seven-year-old Zion Robinson bounded across the narrow road after the school bus stopped in front of a house with pink petunias hanging from the porch rafters.

She excitedly held up to her mother her reward for doing well in class at Faulk Elementary in West Memphis: a white paper plate she had decorated with red, green, and blue paint.

Like many school-age children in this rural town in the Arkansas Delta, Zion gets on a school bus around 6:30 a.m. for the ride to school in West Memphis, Ark., across the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tenn. Ordinarily, West Memphis is a half-hour drive from Hughes, but with frequent school bus stops, the ride can last nearly 60 minutes. Zion gets off the bus around 3:30 p.m. In the winter, Hughes students can both leave home and return in the dark.

Hughes elementary and secondary schools closed at the end of the 2014-15 school year, when the Arkansas education department mandated that the district consolidate with West Memphis because its average daily attendance had fallen below 350 students—a threshold set by a 2004 law known as Act 60. It requires districts that enroll fewer than 350 students for two consecutive years to consolidate or annex with another school system.

Hughes’ former schools are among the hundreds of schools nationwide that close for a variety of reasons. But research suggests that such closures sometimes have a disparate—and disruptive—effect on communities.

Read more here.

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