The private-public collaborative project “Reconnecting McDowell” has purchased property to build apartment-style housing for educators and will move forward with plans to create a “teacher village” in rural McDowell County, W.Va.
The apartments are an effort to improve the county’s ability to recruit and retain teachers in its 10 schools. The McDowell County school district serves about 3,500 students in southern West Virginia, nearly 80 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Since 2011, 125 nonprofits, government agencies, and private companies have partnered with the American Federation of Teachers to find solutions to the challenges in McDowell County, where the median income is only $22,000 according to census data. Only about 4 percent of adults 25 years or older have a bachelor’s degree, compared to about 18 percent nationwide.
Nationwide, rural areas often struggle to recruit and retain teachers, partly due to a lack of quality housing. Some states like South Carolina and Alaska have tried to alleviate this by building apartments for teachers in rural communities. In North Carolina, one credit union provided a no-interest loan to a school district to build apartments.
McDowell County’s “teacher village” will consist of about 30 apartments, as well as a coffee shop and common areas for residents. In addition to the housing efforts, the project has provided laptops to middle school students and Internet access to 10,000 households in the county. The project recently announced plans to launch an internship program for promising high school students.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.