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Rural News Round-Up: School Saved, Rural Poll, Alaska Storm

Happy Friday! Here's a round-up of a few rural news stories that caught my eye this past week.

Rural School Saved For a Year

Consolidation is a common theme/problem for many rural communities, so it seemed worth highlighting this story about one rural western South Dakota school, Spring Creek Elementary.

The Rapid City Journal reported earlier this week that the six-student school won't be closed for at least another year after a Custer School District Board of Education member agreed to chair a special committee to look at alternative funding options for it.

The school district has to cut more than $840,000 for the 2012 fiscal year, and officials said keeping Spring Creek open cost $69,663 last year.

The committee is going to look at other funding options, such as creating a special township taxation district for school expenses or operating the school as a larger version of a home school using curriculum available online through the state

One parent called it a victory for the community, saying, "The board is actually giving us an opportunity to explore other options and to have a say in what happens," according to the article.

I haven't seen this kind of story crop up much, but I'm sure it's one rural residents would like to see more of.

Rural Illinois Poll Shows Rural Residents Pessimistic About Future

A 2010 Rural Life Poll revealed rural Illinois residents aren't hopeful about their economic prospects, with more than 60 percent of respondents saying they expected "worse" or "much worse" in the next five years.

The Illinois Rural Life Poll was conducted by the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University, sent to 8,000 rural households and answered by 1,087 residents. They were asked about their finances and perceptions about issues related to the local economy, and results were released last month.

Most respondents described issues related to jobs as "important" or "very important" for their local economies in the next few years. The vast majority, or 82 percent, said their ability to attract high-paying, local jobs was "important" or "very important."

President Barack Obama formed the White House Rural Council earlier this summer to support economic growth in rural communities, and it released a report in August on its efforts.

Alaska Storm Pummels Rural Communities

Some of you may have heard about the epic storm to hit Western Alaska last week. Many of the areas hardest hit have been rural villages.

State and federal teams were sent out this week to assess the damage, and they're calling it "the worst storm on the state's western coast in almost four decades," according to the Anchorage Daily News.

The newspaper's story said the information will be used to decide whether state or federal disaster areas need to be declared, and they hope to have their investigation finished by Thanksgiving.

Forty communities had some damage, and one, Kivalina, already has been declared a local disaster. Kivalina has a population of 400, and the article described gusts "approaching 70 mph bullied snowmachiners as they tried to ferry residents to shelter on icy roads."

I've been reading stories from that area and haven't seen much on how schools have been affected, but I'll let you know if I do.

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