Some telling numbers were reported in the local newspaper this evening. In the 2004-2005 school year (son Henry’s senior year) there were 2,276 students enrolled in North Adams Schools. This year, the number has dropped down to 1,854. (A reduction of 19%) North Adams superintendent Wylie Sirk stated the obvious. The struggling economy and the overall shortage of jobs locally have contributed to the decline as families in many instances have left the district.
The issue is even more compounded, when one considers what particular jobs and employment possibilities are available in our area. Too many families in our community are living at just above the poverty rate. Principle Scott Miller said 59% of students at Bellmont Middle School qualify this year for the free or reduced lunch program. At Northwest Elementary that figure is 57%. At Southeast Primary School approximately 63% quality for some lunch assistance.
This year we have close to 40 students from our parish away attending college. How many of those young persons will return back home once they have graduated? Our youth are gravitating to urban areas and in many instances, out of the state of Indiana where new and existing jobs are accessible.
Regarding births in Adams Country, the Adams Health Network CEO speaking to the Decatur Chamber of Commerce noted there were approximately 600 births in Adams County in 2010. Only 187 were born in Adams Memorial hospital. 413 were born in Amish birthing centers with midwives performing these deliveries.
While there are, many compelling benefits for raising a family in a small rural community like Adams County there are challenges that often go unnoticed. When over half of the students in a local school system cannot afford to be fed at the going rate of $1.70/meal, when families are leaving this community to find gainful employment elsewhere, when only 31% of the births occur in the local hospital we have some serious challenges before us.
Pray for the citizens and leadership of our local rural communities.