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Consolidation Watch: The 'C' Word in Halifax Co., N.C.

Welcome to Consolidation Watch—a wonkishly named occasional feature of the Rural Education Blog that tracks hot spots and developments on this hot-button issue in rural districts.

These are down-and-dirty reports with a quick summary, links to local debate, and a smidgen of context about the controversy.

Consolidation Debate in N.C.
The "C" word has popped up in Halifax County, N.C., where three small school districts operate independently—and where many schools are high-poverty and under intense state and federal scrutiny for chronic low student achievement. Earlier this year, the state education department took over the county-run district, where only one of 11 schools made adequate yearly progress on the state report card.

The other two districts, Weldon and Roanoke Rapids, serve students in those small cities. The local NAACP leader has spoken in favor of consolidation and said the lines of the Roanoke Rapids district were drawn to keep African-American students out. Halifax County's population is 53.9 percent African-American.
Also read: Former School Board chair speaks out

Arkansas Court Date
A judge in Arkansas has set a Sept. 15 hearing date for a lawsuit challenging consolidation filed by Friends of the Weiner School District. The lawsuit in July grabbed headlines by claiming mergers of rural schools amounted to "agro-terrorism." Read more in this previous Rural Education blog post.

Notes on School Closings:
In North Carolina and Mississippi, rural students start new school years in freshly consolidated schools.

  • In Martin County, N.C, two large, centralized high schools greeted returning students who used to attend four small high schools located in this county's small, rural towns. Debate about the merger, pushed by county commissioners touting efficiency, consumed a decade. Here's a local television report.

  • Two 130-student elementary schools in Jackson County, Miss., closed in June and their students began classes at regional Moss Point Elementary, one of many small consolidations that continue throughout Mississippi. Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of Moss Point, population 17,368, in 2005. For more: Moss Point Schools to Hold Rally on Friday Night.

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