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

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

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 Quiz What Do You Know About the Most Influential People in School Districts? Take Our Quiz
Answer 7 questions about the superintendent profession.
1 min read
Image of icons for gender, pay, demographics.
Canva
School & District Management Opinion I Invited My Students to Be the Principal for a Day. Here’s What I Learned
When I felt myself slipping into a springtime slump, this simple activity reminded me of my “why” as an educator.
S. Kambar Khoshaba
4 min read
052024 OPINION Khoshaba PRINCIPAL end the year with positivity
E+/Getty + Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School & District Management The Complicated Fight Over Four-Day School Weeks
Missouri lawmakers want to encourage large districts to maintain five-day weeks—even as four-day weeks grow more popular.
7 min read
Calendar 4 day week
iStock/Getty
School & District Management From Our Research Center Principal Salaries: The Gap Between Expectation and Reality
Exclusive survey data indicate a gap between the expectations and the realities of principal pay.
4 min read
A Black woman is standing on a ladder and looking into the distance with binoculars, in the background is an ascending arrow.
iStock/Getty