Consolidation in the Henry County Public School System

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Virginia Tech

In the early 1970s, Henry County, Virginia experienced rapid growth but by the late 1970s the population began to decline. In 1982, talks of building a new high school to consolidate two smaller high schools began with the school to be built on the North Carolina boarder. Between 1993 and 2003 approximately 10,523 jobs were lost in Henry County. At this time Henry County operated 20 public schools. In 2000, Dr. Sharon Dodson became the superintendent of Henry County. She was hired to make schools more efficient by using the best available spaces and closing facilities in need of structural repair. In 2001 the school board voted to close three schools but the board of supervisors refused necessary funding for consolidation. During the 2003/04 school year, the school board had no other choice but to revisit the idea of consolidation. In the fall of 2004, reconfiguration occurred which eliminated four facilities with a fifth building closing in the spring of 2008. Today, Henry County operates 14 schools.

This study examined the politics associated with the consolidation process in Henry County and closure of five facilities. The literature associated with consolidation concerning divisions and schools within a division was reviewed to provide context and better understanding of the consolidation process. Historical case study methods where employed to conduct the study. Data were collected from primary sources and interviews were handled qualitatively. Triangulation verification techniques were used to describe and verify consolidation events in Henry County. The findings express the issues and challenges faced and met by Henry County during consolidation. The events that led to school closings and some course offerings and programs are described. The findings indicate that consolidation can be successful even when some stakeholders reject the idea and plan of consolidation. Continued research in the field of consolidation could possibly benefit educational and community leaders considering reconfiguration within a school division. Additional research comparing the cost of operating a division before and after consolidation of schools may provide insights that educational and community members should consider before embarking on consolidation.

Consolidation and Per Pupil Cost