School & District Management Photos

When Schools Close in Rural Communities

By Education Week Photo Staff — August 07, 2017 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Schools across the country close down each year for a variety of reasons. In rural areas like Hughes, Ark., it’s often because they are serving smaller numbers of students and it no longer makes economic sense. More than 60 districts in Arkansas have consolidated or merged since a 2004 state law required at least 350 students to keep a school open. But research suggests that such closures sometimes have a disparate–and disruptive–effect on communities. Photographer Karen Pulfer Focht and Education Week reporter Denisa Superville recently visited the rural town to document the disruptive effects that students and families now face as a result of these school closures.

A sign welcomes visitors to Hughes, Ark., which is 37 miles from Memphis, Tenn. When schools are closed in rural areas like Hughes, they are less likely to be replaced, according to research.
Lawrence Harden, left, and Eugene Williams sit in an abandoned building window front in Hughes.
The town and businesses have struggled for many years. Jobs and agriculture that once sustained the area are gone, and businesses are boarded up and vacant throughout the town as a result.
A cat peers out from a broken window in a deserted storefront in downtown Hughes.
After a lengthy ride from her school in West Memphis, Ark., Zion Robinson, 7, heads to her home in Hughes.
Like many school-age children in this rural town, Zion Robinson, 7, gets on a school bus around 6:30 a.m. for the ride to school in West Memphis, Ark. and gets off the bus around 3:30 p.m. In the winter, Hughes students can both leave home and return in the dark.
The Hughes, Ark. school district consolidated with the West Memphis school system in 2015. Now, the Hughes High School buildings sit closed, vacant, and in disrepair.
Closed in 2015, the Hughes High School still stands, littered with remnants of its past, and marked by graffiti from vandals.
Mildred Jackson Elementary School was among those closed in Hughes last year as a result of Act 60. Today the school sits covered with vines and trashed rooms.
Discarded books and supplies in the vacant Mildred Jackson Elementary School.
Children lie down during naptime at a preschool program in a building near the now-shuttered Mildred Jackson Elementary School in Hughes. The parents of these children must decide in a year or two whether to put them on a school bus for the hourlong trip to West Memphis schools or move closer.

A version of this article first appeared in the Full Frame blog.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Q&A School Libraries and Controversial Books: Tips From the Front Lines
A top school librarian explains how districts can prepare for possible challenges to student reading materials and build trust with parents.
6 min read
Image of library shelves of books.
mikdam/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion ‘This Is Not What We Signed Up For’: A Principal’s Plea for More Support
School leaders are playing the role of health-care experts, social workers, mask enforcers, and more. It’s taking a serious toll.
Kristen St. Germain
3 min read
Illustration of a professional woman walking a tightrope.
Laura Baker/Education Week and uzenzen/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Educators Must Look to History When They Advocate for Changes
Educators and policymakers must be aware of the history of ideas when making changes in education, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Reconsidering Causes of Principal Burnout
The state and federal governments are asking us to implement policies that often go against our beliefs, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty