Give Now

Delays, Closings and Severe Weather - View All Alerts and Updates

Parke County School Staff, Parents Prepare To Consolidate Schools

Parke county schools

Photo: James Vavrek

Using one of the schools for junior high and the other for high school will save the district money.

The North Central Parke Community Schools Corporation will undergo big changes in the coming months. The school board recently voted to consolidate Turkey Run and Rockville junior-senior high schools, with one serving as a junior high and the other as a high school.The move will save the district a significant amount of money.

It’s a challenge many of Indiana’s rural districts are facing as enrollment continues to decline.

Turkey run

Photo: James Vavrek

The school board hopes consolidating the schools will broaden course offerings and opportunities for students.

Superintendent: Consolidation Of Schools Necessary

The North Central Parke Community Schools Corporation sits in the middle of Parke County, a small rural area in west-central Indiana. It’s a community with a large farming industry and a growing Amish population.

But, like many small communities throughout the state, Parke County’s schools are struggling.

“Over the past probably 30 years, there has been a declining enrollment in our school system,” says Thomas Rohr, the superintendent for the school district. “At one time, there were two separate school corporations. There was Rockville community schools and there was Turkey Run community schools.”

The amount of declining enrollment caused the two school corporations to consolidate into one. It allowed the corporation to keep two, separate junior senior high schools open while cutting administrative costs in half.

But Rohr says it was clear the schools couldn’t operate independently for much longer.

“With only 1,200 students in k-12, it makes it, again, very difficult to offer the kinds of programs we wanted to offer,” Rohr says.

He believes combining the schools will open up many opportunities for maximizing resources and ultimately providing more for their students. And many teachers support the consolidation.

“I teach five different [classes], which is difficult as a high school teacher,” says Samantha Woodard, who teaches at Rockville Junior-Senior High School. “That’s pretty much the norm for the entire building now. So we’re hoping with the consolidation that we can specialize a little bit more, and be able to offer more classes for the kids too.”

Turkey run school

Photo: James Vavrek

Many rural schools across the state are trying to deal with steadily declining enrollment.

Rural Schools Struggle To Grapple With Declining Enrollment

More districts across the state are considering options like consolidation as they seek significant cuts to their budgets. 19 percent of the school districts in Indiana serve 1,000 students or less. For them, determining the best path forward is often complicated by strong emotions from the community.

“The focal point of many small rural communities is their school. It’s a great sense of pride, it has a history, it’s a part of that community culture,” says Scott Turney, the executive director of the Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association.

“The focal point of many small rural communities is their school.”

—Scott Turney, Executive Director of the Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association

Turney says each situation is unique, but consolidation is sometimes the best way to serve students in rural communities.

“We’ve looked at a lot of different ways, along with these collaborations, that we can be more efficient and ways to save money,” Turney says. “And so we try everything we can to continue the setting that we have currently, until it’s just at a point where people see it needs to change.”

But some parents in Parke County aren’t convinced consolidation here will result in all of the benefits the district is touting.

“Right now it appears to be more of a reorganization than a consolidation,” says mother Lori Brown, whose daughter goes to Rockville High School. “All of the buildings are staying open, doesn’t appear that there’s any cuts, so it doesn’t look like a whole lot has changed other than we’re going to be moving a lot of kids around.”

The North Central Parke Community Schools Corporation is also considering consolidating elementary schools in the district, redirecting students to one of their two buildings depending on their corresponding township.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media News:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

Search News

Stay Connected

RSS e-mail itunes Facebook Twitter Flickr YouTube

Follow us on Twitter

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media News:

Recent Education Stories

Recent Videos

Find Us on Facebook