Homework needed before making a decision on community schools
This week, the Carter County School Board was presented with the results of a study, which recommended the closing of Keenburg and Little Milligan Elementary School.
From its beginning, the Little Milligan School has been the heart and soul of that community. It has served as the hub of the community. The school has involved parents and families and connected these families and children with helpful community resources beyond education.
Community schools such as Little Milligan offer a host of opportunities and built-in supports to give students more of the tools they need to learn and grow. And, studies show, and Little Milligan is proof that when communities and schools work as one, students attend more consistently and are actively involved in learning, families are more engaged, and the student’s sense of belonging is secure.
We realize that the school board and leaders at the county level are looking at the cost of operating smaller schools, maintaining them, as well as providing students with a quality education. Schools, too, like Little Milligan, are concerned with academic learning, and its teachers are the most important factor impacting student education. Many like Principal J.R. Campbell would not think of teaching anywhere else. He, too, recognizes that parent engagement is also vitally important. To those parents, Little Milligan is their school, too. It somehow gives the community a sense of identity.
While educators such as Campbell and his teaching staff are focused on curriculum, instruction, and student engagement with the learning process, parent involvement makes a significant difference in academic achievement and school success. The school and its parents work together to help support students at risk who experience poverty, substance abuse at home, family instability, and parent unemployment. Little Milligan parents are involved in the overall health of the students, because these students are their children’s friends and neighbors, and that makes a difference.
In a small school such as Little Milligan, it is not unusual for teachers and parents to know each other well.
They recognize that students are going through a lot more than just school when they’re at school — they’re becoming future selves.
It takes a community to raise its children. I’m sure Little Milligan parents don’t want their children going to just any school. They, too, want to be at the heart of their child’s school — a place where they feel welcomed, respected, loved, and supported. That’s a place where learning happens.
Sometimes, large is not always better, and smallness is not always a curse, but a blessing. Rather than eradicating small schools, policymakers would be wise to invest in small schools and elements that make them effective.