Rural Education

October 01, 2003 1 min read

Out of Print

When the doors were locked this past summer at Bibb Graves High School in Millerville, Ala., the little community 65 miles southeast of Birmingham lost more than a campus where generations went to school. It lost the local newspaper.

The Community Connection, written, edited, and delivered by the journalism class at Bibb Graves, published its final edition in June.

The newspaper was part of a University of Alabama program that helped start or bring back newspapers in rural areas. The paper at Bibb Graves had just won a state award for its reporting, and it had covered the debate that eventually ended with the demise of the 330- student, K-12 campus. (“Making the Connection,” Dec. 11, 2002.)

The Clay County school board decided to shut down Bibb Graves in a series of back-and-forth votes during the past year. In June, a federal court upheld the closing, much to the chagrin of journalism teacher Pamela Horn and some Bibb Graves students, who rode buses to Birmingham to protest the court’s action. Another school, Mellow Valley High, also was closed by the district.

The county superintendent said the closings would save money and strengthen academic offerings at the area’s two remaining high schools. But a private Christian school has opened at Mellow Valley, taking about 200 students from the public schools. That exodus could cost the district $2 million in lost enrollment-based aid from the state.

Now teaching journalism at Clay County High School in Ashland, Ala., Ms. Horn has helped start The Paw Print, a newspaper that focuses on her new school rather than on the community at large.

Ms. Horn said she finds inspiration in students such as Brodrick Thomas, a junior who followed her to Clay County High from Bibb Graves. He recently wrote a moving essay about their old school. By keeping up with students from that school, Ms. Horn tries to contain the hurt associated with the closing of Bibb Graves—and its newspaper. The students “are my saving grace,” she said.

Alan Richard