Consolidation. A word that has meant progress and pain, health and heartbreak, for students across the state of Indiana. It is a word that means communities have become too small-- too isolated-- to keep, in many instances, the soul of their very being-- their school.
I am one who has believed from the very beginning that if you rip away a town's school, you rip away its soul. This soul excision began in full force in the 1960's, when many towns were coerced, and in some cases forced, to give up the largest part of their existence to become directional centers of learning-- such as North Knox, North Central, Eastern Greene, et cetera. But what of the communities which gave up the schools? It was more than just being a dot on the map, it was community pride for towns like Wheatland and Freelandville and Odon and Otwell and Oaktown.
I am a realist. It had to happen-- I understand that. In some places, they still keep an elementary or middle school, as testament to that town's very existence. But sadly, in most places, they don't even have that anymore. Those towns join the nameless, soulless dots on a map that are mere testaments to the glory that used to fill those towns.
In my home county of Fayette, there is a small dot that has fought-- so far successfully, to keep its elementary in a very remote part of the county. The town of Orange sits in western Fayette County-- but with a very small, and some would argue inefficent, elementary. My cousins attended school there; it was a high school unto itself until the mid-1960's. I attended a school fair there, and visited the gym. To my surprise, what did I see? Banners honoring the old Orange High School's Fayette County runner-up basketball status three times from 1949 to 1953. That tells you all you need to know about their need to keep their school. Rip out a school, and you rip out the soul of a community.
I said all that to say this. The town of Dugger is fighting this time-honored battle right now to keep its schools. Union High School is fading-- but it has hung on through thick, thin, and thinner times. It is part of the Northeast Sullivan School Corporation-- and consolidation is not on their mind-- elimination is. A feasibility study showed Union to be ineficient-- which it may well be...but the people of Dugger are fighting hard to save their school. Because they know, if they lose their schools-- not just high school, but elementary and junior high as well-- they will become just another dot on State Road 54 between Linton and Sullivan. The citizens of Dugger have bought an 11th hour stay, while a special panel takes a couple of weeks to review the case, and see if Dugger's schools will get a reprieve.
It's a battle that has led to progress and disappointment over the last 50 years. Remember, Union High School, and the other Dugger schools, are a consolidation themselves from the first wave in the 1960's and 70's. Will the yellow and black be absorbed into the North Central schools? Time will tell-- but remember this... when you take away a school from a community, you take away its soul.
That's my take... I'm Tom Lee.