Education Week magazine’s website recently published a national map with a lot of dots on it. Those dots represent what is considered “rural, remote districts.”
When you enlarge that map to show greater detail, in this case the state of Missouri, you see one dot located along a straight line from St. Louis to Jefferson City.
That dot is us.
More specifically, that dot is Gasconade County R-1 School District — a rural, remote district. It’s among the 18 percent of all districts nationwide considered rural and remote that educate 2 percent of all U.S. students.
So, what makes R-1 a “rural and remote” district, but not Gasconade County R-2 or some other district in our immediate area? The two-pronged definition of “rural and remote:”
• Part 1: A district that is at least 25 miles away from a city of at least 50,000 people.
• Part 2: A district that is at least 10 miles from a town of at least 2,500 people.
For school officials such as R-1 Superintendent Tracey Hankins, this is more than just a peculiar label placed on a district. It’s a fact of life for those who are responsible for finding — and, more importantly, retaining — good teachers. It’s that retention part that becomes the real thorny issue.
Rural, remote districts might be able to hire new, young teachers, but after a year or so of living in an area without much to do outside the classroom many of those good, young teachers look to relocate.
This might be more of a problem in more-remote places such as the plains of Colorado or Utah, but it is no less a concern for public school administrators such as Hankins who find living life as a dot on a map often a daunting task.