Resistance to School Consolidation in a Rural Appalachian Community
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School consolidation, which involves closing one or more schools and combining them into a single school, is a common phenomenon in rural Appalachian communities due to out-migration and lack of funding for public schools. When school consolidation occurs, the local school may be closed, or students from other communities may be bused to the school. Community residents, however, do not always agree with the decision to consolidate their local schools. When this disagreement occurs, residents may choose to participate in organized resistance activities to show their opposition, make their voices heard to local politicians and the media, and seek an alternative to the proposed consolidation.
This case study of school consolidation in one rural Appalachian county seeks to document and analyze the struggle in which community residents engaged in an effort to prevent local schools from being consolidated. Data was collected in the form of semi-structured interviews conducted with members and sympathizers of a resistance organization called TOPS. TOPS was formed in 2001 to oppose school consolidation, but its members were not successful in keeping their local schools open. Many schools in McDowell County have been consolidated or are scheduled to be consolidated in the near future. For example, Big Creek High School, which was at the center of many consolidation debates, will be closed in 2010. Its students will be bused to a new, consolidated high school.
I conducted interviews during fall 2006 and spring 2007 to determine community membersâ grievances concerning consolidation, to establish a narrative of their struggle against state government officials, and to provide a basis for analyzing the movementâ s failure to achieve its goals. I used these interviews, along with TOPSâ documents, local newspaper articles, and literature from other anti-consolidation efforts, to examine possible reasons why TOPS was not successful. Social movements literature, particularly the concepts of framing and repertoires of contention, formed the theoretical basis of this analysis.
- Masters Theses