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'Reconnecting McDowell' Moves Forward With Teacher Village

The board of directors for the private-public partnership "Reconnecting McDowell" has voted to start construction on a teacher village, which will provide housing for educators in rural McDowell County, W.Va.

The apartment building, which will have 30 housing units as well as a coffee shop and common areas, is an attempt to retain more teachers in the community. The local McDowell County school district currently has about 40 teacher vacancies, and like many rural parts of the country, has struggled to recruit and retain teachers.

Since 2011, the partnership has worked to improve the quality of life in McDowell County. Residents of the county often face a host of challenges, including poverty, drug abuse, and high imprisonment rates. The median income is only $22,000 according to U.S. Census data, and nearly 80 percent of students in the school district qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. More than 120 private companies, nonprofits, and government agencies have partnered with the American Federation of Teachers to find solutions to these challenges. Recent efforts have focused on providing more technology to students, connecting households to the Internet, and offering internship opportunities for young adults.

The board of directors also voted to apply for a loan from the USDA to finance the village. Construction will begin in a few months and the village is expected to be completed in the next two years. 

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