Funding a dilemma for rural education

Harman School is an example of the dilemma facing schools in small communities across America. Small schools are the center of their communities, but the local tax base is too small and too poor to provide funding necessary to maintain schools at the level required by modern building codes. Closing schools is the quick way to fix the problem, but we need better answers for rural education.

While I was in the Education Department at Davis & Elkins College, we had several fine future teachers who had graduated from Harman School, and they wanted to do their student teaching there. Although my drive took time, I always liked to visit student teachers at Harman School. The school was clean and bright, and the food was great. The teachers and staff at Harman seemed to know and care about their kids.

When one of our student teachers had a disciplinary problem with an unusually belligerent student in the kindergarten class, several people – including a grandmother – became involved to help channel the child’s behavior. I noticed that the child continued to make good progress over the years because she was in a caring community of educators.

Harman School encouraged project-based learning, and it was the first place where I saw a teacher showing students how to test water quality in a creek near the playground. The school library doubled as the community library, and there were other ways people found local solutions for local problems.

The current plan is for the children from Harman to ride all the way to Elkins this fall. I hope renovations will begin at Harman, and students will be back in their own school within the coming school year.

Harman School and community will make the best of the situation regardless of the outcome, but county voters need to be aware of the importance of voting for a bond to bring school buildings at Harman, Coalton and Homestead up to modern standards.