Schools remain heart of small-town communities

Published 5:47 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2023

An Editorial Opinion of The Luverne Journal

At the heart of every small-town community is a school – a place of learning, molding, nurturing, exploration, and togetherness.

So it was when early settlers made their homes in Butler, Lowndes, and Crenshaw Counties, and so it remains today.

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In rural counties, like those in the tri-county area, early-era, one-room schoolhouses were the focal point of their community, often functioning as a church, town hall, voting precinct, or other meeting place. The buildings were, more often than not, the only space where neighbors could gather, all together, for fellowship, recreation, and taking care of town business. The community helped to build and maintain the structures, some of which were so well built and maintained that they remain as a testimony to the dedication of their area’s support and preservation efforts.

One-room schoolhouses gave way to larger public and private campuses, where teachers could focus on grade-level curriculum and inspire learners to pursue higher education after graduation.

Those campuses were still the heart of their community, as parents, grandparents, and neighborhood friends worked to maintain facilities and support extracurricular activities, like athletic programs, artistic productions, and graduation ceremonies.

Today, small-town communities have an array of choices for educational opportunities, including public and private schools, homeschooling, and even virtual learning.

But Butler, Lowndes, and Crenshaw Counties schools remain at the heart of their communities. In those places, school performances, athletic programs, pageants, and ceremonies are attended by a vast majority of residents who support the efforts even when they don’t have children or grandchildren involved.

School events are the occasions every other calendar is planned around. Local groups host back-to-school events and giveaways, volunteer to staff school concession stands during sporting events, and gather to pray for campuses, faculty, staff, and students before the onset of the school year.

Graduates who haven’t walked the halls of their alma maters still seem to enjoy celebrating reunions decades later. And even when school buildings no longer exist, the students they held congregate to celebrate the memories they shared there.

It’s refreshing to witness the way small-town communities continue to support their local schools. Perhaps the same is true for larger, more urban communities, but there seems to be a unique chemistry in rural areas that draws residents together across racial, denominational, and political lines to support one common goal – the nurturing of their collective children.

May it always be so.