A rural school district hangs on
Are you a secondary school science teacher who prefers mountain views to fast food and Wal-mart? If so, you may or may not be interested in a job posted by Dell City ISD, which has an opening now, as well as for next fall. The district also is looking for a vocational agriculture teacher, which may seem a bit strange since the Dell City economy – what there is of it, anyway – is agriculture-based.
If you have never heard of Dell City, that is understandable. It is a tiny community out in the middle of nowhere – and is probably growing smaller.
For some people, though, it may have its pluses, beginning with the part of nowhere that it occupies. The community sits at the base of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, just south of the New Mexico state line in Hudspeth County, and offers a nice view of El Capitan, the most famous mountain peak in Texas.
Another plus for many people would be Wal-Mart’s absence, as well as the absences of Taco Bell, McDonald’s and all the other corporate chains that litter the urban and suburban landscape. And if you are weary of all those class size waivers that allow your district to overfill your classroom, how does a 9-to-1 student-teacher ratio sound?
But, of course, there are potential drawbacks. The nearest community college is in Sierra Blanca, about 60 miles to the south. The closest city is El Paso, about 70 miles to the west. Housing may be inadequate, and I can’t imagine that the pay is impressive, although I don’t know.
And after a while, you may grow weary of eating at the Spanish Angel Cafe, the only restaurant in town, or shopping at the Two T’s Grocery, the only grocery store for miles around.
Peggy Beltran, who teaches English and writing at Dell City Elementary School, drives the 70 miles from El Paso every school day and claims to love the job. She has a SmartBoard in her classroom, new books – and only nine students. Meanwhile, secondary students are taking science courses online through the Texas Virtual School Network.
Linked below is a fuller story by El Paso Times writer Jessica Onsurez about the shrinking – perhaps the eventual death — of Dell City, a once prosperous community that, along with its tiny school district, is stubbornly trying to hold on in a part of Texas that resembles the past much more than the future. The population sign at the town limits claims 413. The Census Bureau says 336, as of 2014, with an average age of 50.
The Dell City ISD enrollment is 73, down from 236 in 2000. But education is as important to each of those kids in Dell City as it is to the 200,000-plus students in Houston ISD, Texas’ largest district, several hundred miles and a world away.